Who's who: local government in Chapel Hill

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Mayor of Chapel Hill, Pam Hemminger and Mayor of Carrboro, Lydia Lavelle lead a walk around the neighborhood at the good neighbor block party at Hargraves Community Center in August.

Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen is responsible for promoting the values and ideals of the town through legislative policy decisions. There are seven members on the board, including the mayor. The board is guided by the town manager and many other advisory boards and committees.

The board priorities are maintaining diversity, protecting neighborhoods, improving transportation, encouraging development, and enhancing quality of life for the community.

Chapel Hill’s Town Council consists of the mayor and eight non-partisan members who guide Chapel Hill and make policy decisions set out to State law. The town manager carries out policies and responsibilities of the mayor and council. The mayor is elected for two-year terms while council members are elected for four-year terms. 

The six themes for the town council are: a place for everyone, community prosperity and engagement, getting around, good places and new spaces, nurturing our community, and town and gown collaboration.

Mayor Pam Hemminger

Pam Hemminger has been the mayor of Chapel Hill since 2015. Before being elected, she served as Orange County Commissioner from 2008 to 2012 and as chair and vice chair of Chapel Hill–Carrboro City School Board from 2004 to 2008. 

Hemminger has a BA from Vanderbilt University in economics and German. While managing the responsibilities as Mayor, Hemminger also is a business manager and owns a small commercial property firm, Windaco Properties LLC. 

In addition to her experiences in finances and property development, she has a strong passion for the environment and social justice. Hemminger has a long history of work with the Town’s Parks and Recreation Commission, the Greenways Commissions and is chair of the Upper Neuse River Basin Authority. 

Supporting the town’s nonprofits, she is on the board of Orange County Habitat for Humanity, the Triangle Land Conservancy, Rainbow Soccer and Historic Moorefields, and as past chair of the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club.

Michael Parker

Michael Parker is serving his first term as a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council. He received a BA in biology from SUNY Buffalo, went to UNC Chapel Hill for graduate school in neurobiology, and has an MBA in healthcare administration from Baruch College. 

Parker began his career by partnering with nonprofit hospitals, especially with underprivileged communities and academic medical centers. Parker has spent most of attention on health care organizations and more recently been involved with pharmaceutical companies and entrepreneurial biotechs. 

Prior to his first term, Parker worked with the Chapel Planning Commission, and was on the boards of the Friends of the Downtown, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and the Carrboro Arts Center. He was also chair of the Transportation Advisory Board and co-chair of the Central West Steering Committee. 

During Parker’s campaign, he addressed the challenges facing Chapel Hill, which included growing diversity and affordability, strengthening the transit system, maintaining environmental protections, and promoting growth.

Nancy Oates

Nancy Oates has been a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council since 2015. 

Before planting her roots in Chapel Hill, she moved from Iowa to Arizona to Michigan and eventually to New York to received her bachelor’s degree from New York University and her master’s degree from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College. She was a probation and parole officer in the New York state and federal courts and managed an alternative-to-incarceration pilot program before moving to Chapel Hill. 

Oates has also been a freelance writer and editor since 1997. Focusing on writing and editing for magazines, newspapers, and other publications, she introduced the Chapel Hill Watch political blog (chapelhillwatch.com). 

With her own kids in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system, she volunteers with the PTA Thrift Shop and in the IFC shelter kitchen. Oates was also a Girl Scout leader and led the annual Boy Scout popcorn sale for many years. She has administrative roles on boards and committees at University Presbyterian Church.

Mayor Lydia Lavelle

Lydia Lavelle is serving her second term as Mayor of Carrboro, her first starting in 2013 and second in 2015. Previous to being Mayor, she was elected to the Board of Aldermen in 2007 and 2011. 

Lavelle has a master’s degree in parks and recreation administration from N.C. State University and a law degree from N.C. Central University. She works as an assistant law professor while also being a liaison to Carrboro’s Appearance Commission and a member of the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition. 

During her second term, Lavelle has concentrated on increasing sales revenue for businesses by strategizing ways to bring events and tourists to Carrboro. Along with that, she has focused on expanding commercial development on Highway 54. 

Lavelle has announced that she will be running for a third term as mayor in November 2017. Running unopposed in 2016, Lavelle is currently the only candidate in the 2017 election.

Damon Seils

Damon Seils is a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and a liaison to the Carrboro Planning Board. Before his election, he was the chair of the Planning Board, a member of the Greenways Commission, and the chair of the Orange County Human Relations Commission. 

Seils was raised in Austin and attended college and graduate school in Washington, DC before coming to Carrboro.

He works at Duke University’s medical school where he oversees of a group of health services researchers who examine the quality, costs, and ethics of health care delivery. He is also a leader in the LGBT community at Duke, working with students, employees, and administrators to encourage equity and inclusion for gender and sexual minorities. 

He was a former editor of OrangePolitics, an award-winning blog that allows for community members to discuss local and regional issues. Seils serves on the board of directors of the Carolina Abortion Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides grants to low-income patients in N.C. who cannot afford to have an abortion.

Jacquelyn Gist

Jacquelyn Gist has been a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen since 1989. 

Being born and raised in Maryland, Gist moved to Kabul, Afghanistan where her father worked as a superintendent of the American schools. She came to Carrboro and received her B.A. with Honors in Philosophy and a Masters of Social Work from UNC Chapel Hill.

While receiving her MSW, she worked with Interfaith Council to create the Community Homeless Shelter. Afterwards, Gist took the title of program coordinator for the ARC of Orange County, a nonprofit that supports children and adults with disabilities. 

Since 1992, Gist has worked at UNC as a Career Counselor and is now both a counselor and the Assistant Director. She is also the person to contact for Teach For America and the US Peace Corps UNC campus recruiters.

Gist’s term expires this December 2017 and it is unknown if she will be running again.

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