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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A: Mayor Damon Seils reflects on Carrboro and his career


Damon Seils, Carrboro council member, poses beside the Carrboro Town Hall sign on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.

Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils has been serving the Town of Carrboro for more than 10 years. Before stepping into the role of mayor a year and a half ago, he served on the Town Council. Seils' term officially ends in December, and he will not be seeking re-election.

The Daily Tar Heel's Laney Crawley sat down with Seils to discuss his mayoral career and the state of Carrboro.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily Tar Heel: What has been your favorite part about being mayor? What experiences stood out to you in general, and what have you learned about the community?

Damon Seils: My favorite parts of being mayor are getting good work done on issues that I care about and that I think people in Carrboro care about.

I've been on the Town Council for more than 10 years now, so I think part of what I learned is that people are eager for some change in our community. I think we've been delivering on that with our newly adopted comprehensive plan. It's always a challenge to balance people's sense of urgency with the realities of local government.

DTH: Tell me a little bit about the current state of Carrboro from your perspective. What would you say the main causes for concern are?

DS: Carrboro is facing a lot of the same challenges that other communities in our region are facing around housing affordability. That's one reason I think it's been so important that we did adopt a new comprehensive plan — our first comprehensive plan —  so that we can begin tackling some of these things, including, in particular, the supply and diversity of housing in Carrboro.

We live in one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. We need to participate in the growth that is occurring around us so that it doesn't take us over.

One priority that we identified — what we call Carrboro Connects, which is our comprehensive plan — is to do some really important zoning reforms to allow for an increase in the number of housing units in our housing stock locally, as well as the types of housing — the diversity, the kinds of housing.

The goal of that is simply to increase the supply of housing in Carrboro to help meet some of the demand that we're seeing in the housing market, but it's also to make it easier for folks from all different kinds of backgrounds to find a place to live in Carrboro.

I talk to people all the time about how the Carrboro that we see around us today is a result of policy decisions — including zoning decisions — that were made 30, 40, 50 years ago. 

We need to be thinking ahead so that we can be more resilient when things like big spurts and growth happen in our region.

Zoning has historically been used as a tool of exclusion, not as a tool of inclusion. I think one of the challenges that we want to tackle in Carrboro is using zoning to include people and to do some repair work on exclusionary zoning.

DTH: What can you tell me about transportation in Carrboro? How have Carrboro and Chapel Hill been working together?

DS: Carrboro’s investment in Chapel Hill Transit is our largest single item in the budget every year. We are a very transit-dependent community.

At Chapel Hill Transit, we recently implemented what's called the Short Range Transit Plan, which is meant to increase service, provide service to new areas and to provide weekend service where it didn't exist before.

While we've been able to implement most of that plan, which was really exciting, we have a little bit longer to go because of the pandemic and difficulty in hiring more bus drivers. We've had some big successes: we now have a seven-day-a-week service in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

DTH: If you had to describe the character of Carrboro, what would you say?

DS: I think of Carrboro as dynamic in the sense that it's a very fluid community. We have a lot of folks who live here because of the University. We have a lot of students who will live here for a while. 

We have a lot of faculty and other employees at the University who live in Carrboro. We have a very active, dynamic community, because it's always moving.

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I think that's a great thing, because it means that people are open to and eager about change and about making important changes in our lives so that we can make sure Carrboro remains a great place to live for lots of people.


@DTHCityState | 

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