Carrboro Town Council member Damon Seils is projected to become the next mayor of Carrboro according to unofficial results, defeating Carrboro restaurateur and photographer Michael Benson.
Seils won all eight precincts that voted in Orange County on Tuesday. He finished with 3,749 votes in Orange County, making up 90.25 percent of the votes. Benson received 376 votes, 9.05 percent.
Coming into the election, Seils received endorsements from multiple organizations, including Equality NC, LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Progressive Democrats of Orange County.
He has served on the Carrboro Town Council since 2013 and was a leader on the Carrboro Connects plan, which is devoted to developing affordability and sustainability in the town. He has lived in Carrboro since 1999 after he finished graduate school.
Seils decided to run for mayor after current Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle announced in May she would not run for reelection. He said he realized he'd played a large role in many major initiatives the Town was working on and thought it would be an incredible opportunity for him to be in a new leadership role.
Seils credited Lavelle and former Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton.
"They taught me how to be mayor, and, well, they will always be my mayors," Seils said at his watch party Tuesday night.
He said this election was the right opportunity for him to step up even more in the community after his involvement with the Carrboro Town Council.
“Being on the Town Council has been probably the most important experience of my life in terms of developing my leadership in the community and working with community members to achieve our shared visions,” Seils said.
He added that he wants to focus on pandemic recovery throughout his term to combat both the public health emergency and the economic impacts COVID-19 has had on Carrboro.
He also said he will work to find ways to support and maintain small businesses in the area.
“We've been working really hard over the last 18 months in Carrboro to support folks through direct financial assistance for housing and rental payments and trying to avert an addiction crisis,” Seils said. “We've just announced a big grant program for local businesses in Carrboro, so I think focusing on those kinds of recovery efforts will be a top priority.”
Austin Hahn, a neighbor of Seils, said Seils' role in the community was one of the main reasons he voted for him.
"He is very much of the community," Hahn said. "You'll always see him biking or walking around, and it's very clear that he's put in work as a Town Council member."
Benson said he ran for mayor to raise awareness about the lack of affordable housing and high tax rate in Carrboro, although he said he didn't run with the sole intention of winning.
"In running for mayor, you get a megaphone in which to speak that you would not get as a as a citizen in the Town of Carrboro," Benson said. "And you also get invited to cocktail parties with people, so I've more than gotten my $15 filing fee back in just food and drinks. It's been a win-win."
Benson congratulated Seils and said Seils is passionate about Carrboro and has a strong political resume.
“I figured this would happen, and I'm so happy for you," Benson said of Seils.
Senior Writer David Richman contributed reporting.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.