Rachel Schaevitz is a UNC alum running for a seat on Chapel Hill’s Town Council. Staff writer Simrann Wadhwa spoke with her about why she is running, her platform and what she hopes to accomplish.
The Daily Tar Heel: Why are you running for Town Council?
Rachel Schaevitz: The reasons I’m running are varied. One of the main reasons I’m running is because I’m a mom of young kids, and I work and live in Chapel Hill. A lot of what I do represents Chapel Hill — I have University connections, my kids go to public school. A lot of those things help me understand a big chunk of the people here in Chapel Hill. I’m interested in making sure lots of different voices are at the table, and so that’s been a role I’ve played in a lot of different ways in my life through volunteer work, teaching and through a lot of different jobs I’ve had in the film industry. Representative government is not making sure their voice is heard, but someone making sure everyone else's voices are heard. This candidacy has been a way to try to do something to contribute positively to our world in a real and practical way.
DTH: What makes you a unique or diverse candidate as compared to the other contenders running?
RS: The class that I’m co-teaching this semester at Carolina called “Community Engagement and Media Production in the Public Service.” What I did is I paired up my film students with Chapel Hill nonprofits, and each team is assigned to a different nonprofit like TABLE. Their assignment is to create a video for that charity or nonprofit group to help expand the really great work that (the group is) already doing. The reason that I think that’s really relevant to the Town Council is it really illustrates how I think about challenges, and how I approach life. The solution of pairing up nonprofits with film students is collaborative, it’s really practical and it’s mutually beneficial. The students need professional experience to be competitive on the job market, and the nonprofits need marketing material. This course solves problems practically and collaboratively. Let’s work with the students and faculty of Carolina and collaborate with the town and bring them together towards solving problems that we both share. That is something unique about me as a candidate, that I do have this University connection and I’m all about creativity and collaboration.
DTH: Can you elaborate more on your platform and what you hope to see in the future of Chapel Hill?
RS: One piece of my platform that I’m really passionate about is sustainable energy, like green technology and being thoughtful about how we invest in transit and development that we are really being realistic about the future of our planet. I’m really impressed with the fact that North Carolina is the second most solarized state in the country. We have the opportunity to really lead North Carolina as a town and show the rest of the state what we can do when we invest in sustainable energy. At East Chapel Hill High, four students wrote a grant and Duke energy fully funded a solar array for their school. Four high school students managed to make really amazing change for their high school, by thinking ahead and thinking about the future of our technology and energy needs. I was just so thrilled to see the future of our state encompassed in these four students. This is exactly the kind of green, forward thinking that I love and that I want to exemplify as a leader.
DTH: What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council?
RS: One role that I hold in the town is I’m the chair of the American Legion Task Force. The town recently bought a 36-acre parcel of land right in the middle of town, and it's virtually undeveloped. It’s a huge opportunity for our town, and I really believe what we do with that land will really illustrate our values and what we stand for. Before the town purchased the land, it was being considered as a major development space for a bunch of apartments. Now that the town owns it, it’s much more likely that it will become a park. A place where people of any income can go and enjoy, a place for everybody in the town. It will be a space for all, not just for folks who can afford it. I think about all our development in that same way. If we build a beautiful high-rise that is very expensive, what is that going to do for the businesses around it? Is it going to drive out the really, funky unique long-time businesses that make Chapel Hill so different from every other town? And if so that’s not a good-trade off. It’s not worth it to build those luxury condos if it’s going to drive away the very things that make Chapel Hill special and unique.
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