The November election season is quickly approaching, with seats on five Chapel Hill and Carrboro offices on the ballot.
Here's what you need to know about each office and how they can impact the community.
North Carolina operates largely under what is known as a "manager-council" form of government where the mayor serves as the spokesperson for a town.
The current mayor of Chapel Hill is Pam Hemminger, and Carrboro’s mayor is Lydia Lavelle.
There are three candidates running for mayor of Chapel Hill this election cycle: UNC law student Zachary Boyce and current Chapel Hill Town Council member Hongbin Gu are set to challenge incumbent Pam Hemminger.
Carrboro’s race is between current Carrboro Town Council member Damon Seils and challenger Michael Benson, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro native.
Mayor Lavelle said she believes it is important for students to be involved in local elections since the decisions that councils make can impact their experience in the community — even if they're only in the area for a few years.
“We often consider matters that may affect students — some examples might be parking issues, or noise ordinances,” Lavelle said. “We're in the middle of what's called a comprehensive planning process where we're trying to figure out how our community is going to look in the next 30, 40, 50 years.”
The mayor serves as a voting member of their respective town council and acts as the office head of the town.
The town council serves as the town's legislature, which passes local laws called ordinances. They also administer the town's budget and allocate resources to its residents.
Both the Chapel Hill Town Council and the Carrboro Town Council appoint people to its advisory boards and committees and set the property tax rates.
Four seats are available for the Chapel Hill Town Council this cycle, with Robert Beasley, Camille Berry, Andrew Creech, Jeffrey C. Hoagland, Paris Miller-Foushee, Vimala Rajendran, Adam Searing and incumbent Karen Stegman on the ballot.
There are three seats available for the Carrboro Town Council. Incumbents Jacquelyn Gist, Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Barbara Middleton-Foushee are facing off against challengers Aja Kelleher and Danny Nowell for the positions.
“The council is more of a legislative role where we are setting policies to ensure the safety and the health and the economic and social well being of the community,” Carrboro Town Council Member Susan Romaine said. “We approve a budget, which is, of course, very important to the citizens, and we also do long-range planning in terms of municipal operations.”
Jaquie Gist, another member of the Carrboro Town Council, said she believes oftentimes when people think of government, their first thought is of officials operating on a larger scale— the Senate, the Congress, the President, the Governor or state legislators.
“But in truth, local government has more of a day-to-day impact on people's lives and on how you go about your life than any of those,” Gist said.
Carrboro Town Council Member Randee Haven O'Donnell said it is critical to understand the value of community.
“We cannot operate as single fingers on a hand," O'Donnell said. "We need to operate as that strong hand that works together, and sometimes a fist.”
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education
The Board of Education is tasked with creating the policies that govern school districts. It also sets budgets and hires superintendents, who in turn hire staff members.
Board members also serve staggered four year terms. Every two years, three or four of the board members are up for reelection.
This election cycle, three seats are open, and will be filled by newcomers — all three incumbents have not filed to run again. George Griffin, Ryan C. Jackson, Riza Jenkins, Meredith Pruitt, Mike Sharp and Tim Sookram are running for the three seats.
Jeff Nash, the executive director of community relations for CHCCS, said it is important for students to be civic-minded and involved in their communities.
“If students are going to be part of this community for years, they should do what they can to leave it better than when they got here,” Nash said. “And part of that is making sure that our schools are operating in a way that is effective, so that every child who comes in has a great school experience.”
To learn more about local elections, visit www.orangecountync.gov.