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Michelle Johnson to step down from Carrboro Board of Aldermen

Change is coming for the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. 

Board of Aldermen member Michelle Johnson announced her plan to resign in May on Tuesday. The same day, Barbara Foushee, secretary of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, announced her candidacy for the board's elections in November.

“Any time you have turnover on the board it offers an opportunity,” Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said. “We’ll bring a new voice to the board.” 

Johnson will serve on the board through the end of May. Lavelle said that same month the board will decide whether to appoint someone to the position or wait until the November elections to fill her spot. 

The mayor's seat and three other board positions besides Johnson’s will be up for election in November. 

Johnson, a clinical social worker, was elected to the board in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015. Her term would have continued until 2019, but she resigned because she's moving to Oregon in June to work for an organization focused on racial equity, Chaney said. She could not be reached for comment. 

Board of Aldermen member Bethany Chaney said Johnson had a strong voice and valuable insights, offering a critical perspective as a business owner and a social worker. Chaney said Johnson highlighted ways Carrboro could do better, especially in terms of equity. 

“She’s been a very active and engaged member of our community,” Lavelle said.

During her time with the Board of Aldermen, Johnson worked as a part of the Affordable Housing Task Force for Carrboro and the Community Home Trust.

“She shaped the affordable housing strategy in Carrboro,” Chaney said.

Johnson’s absence brings up concerns about diversity for the board, Lavelle said.

Multiple genders, sexual orientations and age groups are currently represented, but Johnson is the only African-American member. 

On the other hand, Lavelle said changing faces may have a positive impact on the board, whose members have not changed since Chaney’s election in 2014. 

Chaney hopes many people decide to run to give choices to Carrboro’s voters.

“I think it creates a much more robust environment for leadership development,” she said.

Chaney said she was pleased to see Foushee step up early in the process.

Foushee said she felt like the time was right to run.

Her platform addresses advocating for social and environmental justice, diversifying the tax base, developing economic growth and improving the collaborative relationship between Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County. 

“We’re just getting started and want to be impactful from the beginning,” Foushee said. “I know the issues I want to focus on and I’m having lots of community conversations.”

In addition to the NAACP, Foushee sits on the OWASA Board of Directors and the Town of Carrboro Human Services Advisory Board. 

On the issue of diversity, Foushee said diversity is not only about race, gender, religion or sexual orientation but also life experience, because no two people grow up with the same community.

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“I bring a different perspective to the board because of issues and life experiences,” she said.