Three candidates — incumbent Pam Hemminger, Chapel Hill Town Council member Hongbin Gu and UNC law student Zachary Boyce — are running to be the next mayor of Chapel Hill.
The election will be held on Nov. 2.
Hemminger, the current mayor, has served the Chapel Hill community for 30 years with three terms as mayor.
She has done everything from financial forecasting to helping nonprofits become financially sustainable to serving the community on the school board and as a county commissioner.
“I love this community," Hemminger said. "We have some exciting things going on in Chapel Hill... I’ve been really working hard towards more economic development for our community to help us become a sustainable place."
Hemminger said she wants Chapel Hill to have its own solar farm.
She also said she wants to build a new parking garage downtown to bring in more jobs. The parking garage would be paid for by parking revenues, projections and lease signings with different companies, she said.
“I’m a finance girl, so I really understand how to put the financing together to figure out how we leverage our dollars and how we pay for things without burdening the taxpayers,” Hemminger said.
Boyce, a graduate student dually enrolled in both UNC's School of Law and School of Information and Library Science, was born and raised in Fayetteville. He is a first-generation college student who studied psychology and neuroscience with a concentration in trauma and resilience at UNC-Wilmington.
After graduation, he worked with the Peace Corps in Ecuador as a youth and family development volunteer.
“I’m running for mayor because I think that we can bridge the quality of inter-institutional service provided to the community by putting graduate researchers in the administration who have direct access to the body of knowledge,” Boyce said.
He said he plans to continue to support the divestment from fossil fuels and other carbon industries. He also said he aims to expand access to green spaces and increase access to public transportation.
Boyce added that his platform is founded on research and re-empowerment, while also prioritizing racial equity.
“If Mayor Hemminger really wants to demonstrate a commitment to racial equity and to the historically excluded populations of the community, the best thing she can do for Black people in Chapel Hill and throughout the state of North Carolina is to withdraw her candidacy immediately,” Boyce said.
Gu grew up in China and came to Chapel Hill over 20 years ago as a graduate student. After graduating with a doctoral degree in mathematical psychology and a master's degree in statistics, she began working at the UNC School of Medicine. Gu has served in different school organizations, volunteered for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools PTA and served on the Chapel Hill Town Council for four years.
“During those volunteer hours is when I realized that there are so many needs in our community, with regard to like the food or security with the housing needs, there are kids that really do not have a stable family environment,” she said.
Gu said her platform is composed of three elements: the economy, environment and diversity in our community.
“We need to make sure that we have a community that will provide affordable housing and active transportation like transit, bike, walk options for the people,” she said.
She said her first-hand experience with the massive gentrification in China makes one of her top priorities protecting the vulnerable communities in Chapel Hill from an increasing wealth gap.
“I really would like us to have to create a community that, as I said, that I would like to be more green, more inclusive, and more resilient with regard to the challenges that we're facing,” Gu said.