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Friday December 9th

Carrboro aldermen gain new diversity through Michelle Johnson

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Michelle Johnson, unofficially the newest member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, promises to ensure a minority voice on the board and offer a perspective that is diverse in other ways.

Johnson, a black woman, will serve on the seven-member, predominantly white board alongside incumbents Lydia Lavelle and Dan Coleman, who were both re-elected.

The fourth candidate in the race, challenger Braxton Foushee, fell behind the winning candidates by more than 900 votes, according to unofficial results by the Orange County Board of Elections.

Because Alderwoman Joal Hall Broun decided not to run for re-election, Johnson will be the only black representative serving on the board this term.

But all three winners said the board’s diversity goes beyond race.
“We’re all diverse and will bring different perspectives for the board,” Johnson said.

Johnson said her experience as a downtown businesswoman and a social justice activist set her apart from the other candidates.

“Michelle must have energized an up-and-coming group of locals who are interested in the direction Carrboro is going,” Lavelle said.

Johnson, who lives and works in the heart of Carrboro, emphasized the need for downtown development during her campaign.

Johnson also included human rights issues like the day laborers on Jones Ferry and Davie roads in her platform, which resonated with voters, said Brooks Rainey Pearson, her campaign manager.

Meanwhile, Foushee, who previously served on the board from 1969 to 1981, supported development on the outskirts of Carrboro and affordable workforce housing.

Foushee said he had trouble motivating his supporters — working class residents — to vote.

“I don’t think I got my whole base out,” he said.

Coleman was appointed to the board by Mayor Mark Chilton in 2006 and has now been re-elected twice. He said moving forward the board needs to deal with current economic challenges and support growth that preserves the town’s character.

Lavelle, who was first elected in 2007, will be serving her second term on the board. She said she will continue to focus on improving the town’s transportation system.

Lavelle said the board’s first priority will be hiring a new town manager.

“That’s going to help kind of determine the direction where we go over the next several years,” she said.

Caroline Leland and Caroline Watkins contributed reporting.

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