When Lydia Lavelle was elected mayor of Carrboro and vacated her place on the Board of Aldermen in 2013, Bethany Chaney had an opportunity to run for the seat.
“I had trepidation because I'm not a natural politician," she said. "I’m an introvert and a pretty big one, so I had trepidation about it, but one of the most amazing things and fun things about campaigning for the first time was the canvassing."
She said she was told by a former Board of Aldermen member that because she was registered as an unaffiliated candidate, she would not win the election.
“It was interesting to be an unaffiliated candidate in a municipal race, because even in Orange County, a lot of the ways that people are introduced to politics and how they consider themselves is as progressive Democrats, and so I found that it was interesting to sort of be on the outside of that,” she said.
The former Board of Aldermen member was wrong. Chaney will have been in her seat for five and a half years when her second term expires at the end of 2019. She announced she will not seek re-election on Sunday.
Since celebrating her 50th birthday this past August, Chaney has been considering what she wants to do in her 50s.
“I feel like I’ve made a solid contribution, I’ve learned a lot, I hope that the community has gained something from my service, but it’s time for me to claw back some of that time for myself and my own professional endeavors,” she said.
She said she plans to devote more time to her consulting business, personal travel and her art and writing.
Chaney wants to remind people her work as an Alderman isn’t over.
“I’m not dead yet. I’m definitely all in until November,” she said. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be fully engaged in the same way that I am now.”
She said she made her announcement now so potential candidates would know what the seating will look like when it comes time to file.
Lavelle praised Chaney’s commitment to affordable housing and racial equity.
“She constantly reminds us to evaluate and kind of articulate whether we have success or not, for example cost-benefit analysis or looking at metrics or ways that we can check in and see if we’re achieving the goals that we’re setting for ourselves,” she said.
Barbara Foushee, a member of the Board of Aldermen, echoed that sentiment.
“She’s just a champion for affordable housing and equity, diversity and inclusion,” she said.
Chaney said while she is proud of her work with affordable housing and her contributions to conversations about development, there is still room for improvement in those areas among others.
“I think as a community we run the risk of labeling ourselves as a particularly progressive place and forgetting that, in fact, we have a lot of work to do as a community in partnership with other communities around us,” she said.
Foushee said she admires Chaney’s honesty and authenticity.
"I always knew that I could come to her and just be real. I didn’t have to like sugarcoat anything or make it sound in a certain way, I just gave it to her straight, no chaser, and she did the same with me,” said Foushee.
Chaney said her biggest takeaway during her time on the board has been: "You never contribute more than what you learn."
Lavelle said she and Chaney have had fun with the N.C. State-UNC basketball rivalry since she is a North Carolina State University fan and Chaney is a UNC fan. She said she's still getting used to the idea that Chaney is leaving the board.
“I respect her tremendously and I wish her well, but I definitely am going to miss her very thoughtful approach to governing,” she said.