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The Daily Tar Heel

Matt Hughes adds millennial's perspective to the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners

Board of County Commissioners Nov. 9

The Orange County Board of Commissioners met Nov. 9. 

Matt Hughes was appointed to the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners at their March 12 meeting. Staff writer Rachel McKinney spoke with him about his skills and previous work, what he hopes for his upcoming term and his experiences as a young politician. 

The Daily Tar Heel: What about you and your skills can help Hillsborough and its residents?

Matt Hughes: I think the fact that I am a long-term resident of Hillsborough and have a lot of ties in the community is something that is really beneficial to the town. (It's) something that I hope to leverage in connecting the folks who have called Hillsborough home for a long time or their families, and building that bridge between the folks who are moving into town because there’s a lot of development going on. I think being a millennial, being a younger person, certainly helps. Because a lot of those people who are going to be moving into town are going to be a younger set of people who might be young professionals, who are moving in because they really like the area's schools and are going to be working somewhere nearby or maybe in town. So I hope to be that conduit between newcomers in town and the more established residents.

DTH: How will your previous experience benefit Hillsborough?

MH: I’ve served on a variety of local boards and commissions, and that gives me a lot of perspective as economic development occurs and planning is carried out, and the intergovernmental relationships that are involved. (With) Hillsborough being the county’s seat and with the school system there, anything that the town approves in terms of housing there needs to be in coordination with the local school system so we know the impact that construction may have. Conversely, with the town being the county seat, there are plans that maybe the county has in terms of planning, land use, and economic development. So understanding how all these pieces fit together through my time on various boards and committees, I really have that valuable insight.

DTH: What plans or ideas would you like to see executed during your upcoming term?

MH: Well certainly keeping a steady hand on housing, and development in town is going to grow a lot in the next couple of years. Ensuring we can deliver services to those residents is important to me, and making sure we are delivering quality services. With the growth, we are going to have to have an eye on infrastructure. In particular, Hillsborough is a town where the downtown is a couple of centuries old, and so that’s going to present a logistical challenge of getting people in and out of town. That’s something that I want to focus on as well as affordability — not just affordable housing, but the issue of general affordability in our community.

DTH: You mentioned earlier that you are a millennial, what response has the public had about your age?

MH: I think a lot of people think it’s a positive. I think there are folks who think it may not be a positive to have someone in their 20s in a governing board, but the fact of the matter is that our community, whether you are talking about Hillsborough, or the greater Orange County community, or the Triangle, is an increasingly younger area. A lot of folks are moving here after graduating college and taking jobs at startups or universities, or maybe they are in grad school ... so that is a constituency that needs to have a representative. The feedback I have gotten from folks is that they are glad there is someone from a younger generation who stepped up and was appointed to the board, and I want to bring that energy and enthusiasm with me.

DTH: You said one of your goals was to build a bridge between new and long-term residents, do you have a vision for how that will play out?

MH: I think really the biggest thing is fostering dialogue and communication and ensuring people’s needs are being met. I believe that ... making sure that people are being heard and that we are able to address their concerns is very important both in terms of folks who are established and newcomers who have moved to Hillsborough or are coming. Part of that is integrating the new community into town and town life. Some of the folks who move or have been there a while, their needs might be different, and being receptive to those needs is important. I think the biggest concern that I have heard is people wondering if their voice has been heard, so I want to make sure that — no matter how long they have lived in Hillsborough — that is something that I can do.

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