Mayor of Carrboro: “Always On” – Lydia Lavelle

When I am asked to speak about our town, I often say it is a privilege to be the mayor of Carrboro, the town I consider to be the most progressive in North Carolina. As I serve, I ponder and work and live Carrboro constantly. Our ambitious community promotes imaginative and out-of-the-box thinking that our board not only considers, but embraces. This is the exemplar of Carrboro’s “feel free” spirit. As mayor, this energy is infectious, and it is with you full time.

This fall, I am running for my third term as mayor of Carrboro. It is with great excitement and commitment that I seek re-election.

I remember after my swearing in on Dec. 3, 2013, outgoing Mayor Mark Chilton (who made mayoring look effortless) immediately wrote, “I feel like a four pound burden has been lifted!” I understand what he meant – being mayor is an “always on” kind of commitment. I understand the responsibilities of serving as mayor, and I welcome the challenges.

Carrboro is a smart, engaged, thoughtful community. Our board holds lengthy meetings almost every Tuesday night in Carrboro Town Hall, attended by informed residents, and we have many additional advisory board and committee meetings. In addition, three times in the last year and half, our board held special meetings in Carrboro faster than any municipality in the state to address breaking issues of importance (one to address the hateful HB2, one to pass the “brunch bill” to speed up an economic opportunity for our businesses, and one to reflect on the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia).

And “mayoring” doesn’t stop when the meetings end. Some examples: This July, I was on vacation at the beach, staring at the ocean, when I learned of the death of photographer Jesse Kalisher, one of Carrboro’s great artists. As I remembered all Jesse had done for our town, I viscerally felt the pain my community was feeling. Last February, I was in the middle of a busy but routine Friday when suddenly our town had no access to water. I immediately began meeting with emergency personnel as we communicated with neighboring jurisdictions about how to proceed. The next day I went to McDougle Middle School to help hand out water bottles to residents, hoping that my presence was also giving folks reassurance that the crisis was being addressed as quickly as possible. Last summer, Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, of El Centro Hispano, requested I make an unscheduled trip the next morning to the General Assembly. I went and advocated in a press conference for the Faith Action I.D. program on behalf our immigrant community, because the legislature was considering disallowing the program.

In addition to these specific examples, I am “always on” in a general sense as well. Known for our numerous festivals, Farmer’s Market, and special events in Carrboro, I frequently find myself in town enjoying the atmosphere, while I also hear from residents about their experiences and concerns. Nearly every time I go out to eat or drink, I go to Carrboro, to support our businesses and immerse myself in our local landscape. And when I travel to other communities, such as my hometown of Athens, Ohio, I always look for ideas to bring back.

My work as an associate professor of law at N.C. Central University nicely complements my work as mayor of Carrboro. When I teach State and Local Governmental Law, I am adding to my knowledge bank about town governance. My students research legal issues that are timely to today’s political climate; as I teach, I am also being taught! Moreover, my academic research relates to gay rights, an area of extreme importance to residents in my town.

Skills developed over years as an attorney help me immeasurably in my work as a local elected official, both in terms of understanding and advocacy. I use these skills in regional and statewide settings, whether meeting with local Orange County elected officials about common issues, or with the statewide “Metropolitan Mayors Coalition.” There is a synergy between my jobs. The way they feed each other is energizing.

I am proud to serve in Carrboro, a progressive community where values are put into action. I am an experienced, responsive leader who understands the commitment and challenges of public service, and I relish the “always on” nature of elected office. I ask Carrboro voters to re-elect me as mayor in November so that I can continue to lead our town with my time and energy.

Editor’s note: Candidates in the fall elections may submit one guest column of 600 to 800 words to letters@heraldsun.com between now and Oct. 15.