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The Daily Tar Heel

Pam Hemminger elected during wave of local discontent

Joel and Melissa Hudley, professors in the UNC geology department, met when they were doing their masters at Birmingham University, and have been married for eleven years.
Joel and Melissa Hudley, professors in the UNC geology department, met when they were doing their masters at Birmingham University, and have been married for eleven years.

Hemminger has been an Orange County Commissioner, Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board member and part of many nonprofit organizations.

She stands for affordable housing, increasing the commercial tax base and making better financial decisions, especially when it comes to development.

Hemminger has been elected on a wave of local discontent brought on by development projects that many local citizens believe will hurt Chapel Hill’s college-town atmosphere.

These projects include Obey Creek and Ephesus-Fordham.

These local mixed-use developments have become controversial with local citizens.

Critics say the projects contain too much residential space in comparison to business and office space and also have over-the-top building density.

Residents are also concerned over loss of affordable housing.

Criticism of these projects has been led by Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, or CHALT, of which retiree John Morris is a member.

A former water resources manager for the state government and longtime citizen of Chapel Hill, the 74-year-old said, “We felt ignored by Mayor Kleinschmidt and the Town Council. It was a gradual turning to CHALT, and eventually people began saying that we need new people.”

UNC political science professor Jason Roberts said the overall turnout for the 2015 elections in Orange County was 15 percent.

“It only takes a few people to come out to change these elections,” Roberts said.

Hemminger was endorsed by CHALT, criticizing the recent developments for having a high-rise and high-density design for going against the Chapel Hill’s college-town feel.

She has expressed concern that the students who come to live on these properties push out residents who have lived in the area for years.

New council members, Jessica Anderson and Nancy Oates, were also endorsed by CHALT.

Oates is the head of Chapel Hill Watch, a blog that covers local issues.

Anderson has experience in several organizations, including the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Mothers Club, and works in a residential facility for homeless teenage mothers.

Hemminger said she stands for better economic growth, inclusion and cooperation. Her top priority is to bring more voices to the table.

She has also repeatedly said on the campaign trail and on her website that she wants to bring more businesses to Chapel Hill to offset what she sees as the town’s over-reliance on residency taxes for revenue.

“I am going to set up a series of town hall meetings where we’re going to go into communities and talk to people,” Hemminger said.

Morris points to Hemminger’s long residency here in Chapel Hill as a reason why CHALT supported her.

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“Hemminger has deep roots here,” he said. “She will be drawing on that knowledge as mayor.”

Hemminger said she does not have any specific plans yet to implement on her first day in office.

“I want to keep moving forward,” she said. “We have three new council members coming in, so the emphasis is really going to be on working together.”