Candidates for local offices in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough attended a First Baptist Church service for a meet-and-greet event on Oct. 13.
During the Sunday service, candidates were invited to give a one-minute pitch about themselves and their platform. The congregation was later invited to join the candidates for an informal meet-and-greet session.
Candidates who attended represented a variety of local offices, including Chapel Hill Town Council, the mayor of Chapel Hill, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, the mayor of Carrboro, the Chapel Hill and Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners and the District Court Judge.
Many spoke about their roots in the community, plans for affordable housing, the necessity of combatting climate change and more. Some candidates spoke about fiscal concerns — diversifying the tax base and reducing water and sewer rates were mentioned by multiple candidates.
“I have friends who are school teachers and small business owners who struggle to find any housing in this town, yet I see luxury apartment buildings being built with no affordable housing, and I think we need to change that,” said Renuka Soll, candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger spoke about the recent efforts to engage with Chapel Hill’s cultural history and emphasized the need to have diverse voices be a part of that documentation process for the town.
“I want to encourage all of you,” she said. “We are finally telling our real history, and we want the voices to come to the table from all parts of the community as we document and celebrate 200 years of this town’s existence.”
Some candidates opted to go beyond policy proposals and talk about why they decided to run for their respective offices. Jenn Weaver, Hillsborough mayor pro tem and mayoral candidate, drew some laughs when she said that she was once arrested for civil disobedience while protesting the General Assembly.
“I can’t promise that as mayor I won’t get arrested,” she said. “But if I do, it’s for a good reason.”
While Weaver’s district doesn’t include the First Baptist Church or the areas surrounding it, she emphasized that Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough are interconnected as part of a broader Orange County community.
“I came all the way down here from Hillsborough because we are connected to each other,” she said. “We all need each other to strengthen those relationships here in Orange County because none of us can really do it on our own.”
After the morning service, the Rev. Rodney Coleman began the meet-and-greet session, where people were invited to ask questions and mingle with the candidates. A representative from the local NAACP chapter was present to register people to vote and educate them about what documentation is needed.
Candidates celebrated First Baptist Church’s civic engagement, appealing directly to voters to encourage them to learn more about the candidates beyond what the invitees to the meet-and-greet session were able to say.
“Today, your vote is the most important thing,” said Steve Friedman, candidate for Carrboro Board of Aldermen. “It’s your biggest power that you have. And I want you to go out and exercise that power. So, if you remembered nothing else from today, I want you to remember to educate yourself about the candidates and I want you to remember to vote.”
Early voting begins Wednesday in Orange County, and Election Day is Nov. 5.