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Q&A: Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger reflects on election endorsements, possible outcomes

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Mayor Pam Hemminger stands for a portrait outside the Sancar Turkish Cultural and Community Center on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.

As election day for local municipalities quickly approaches, The Daily Tar Heel's Annika Duneja spoke with Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger — who is not running for reelection — to hear her thoughts on candidates, their policies and the importance of the election. Hemminger has endorsed Jess Anderson in the mayoral race.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily Tar Heel: Why is this specific year's election in Chapel Hill important to you? Is there anything different or unique about it?

Pam Hemminger: We have spent so much time the last eight years, doing the research, asking the questions and formulating a plan for Complete Communities, for climate action, for affordable housing, for all things downtown. I feel like this election really sets the tone for implementing the plans that we spent the time to put together after doing all that research.

DTH: What do you think this election will mean, depending on who is elected?

PH: If the group gets elected who is anti-all this development, anti-growing, anti-creating more spaces for affordable housing, then I think things will stall out for a period of time. I think it's going to be a big decision point, whether we keep the wheels turning the way they're going, or whether we come to a break and take a stop. Which, in the long run, we're going to have to grow. 

DTH: You endorsed Jess Anderson as the candidate who you think should replace you as mayor. Can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to endorse her?

PH: Jess has been at the table doing the work toward this Complete Communities framework, toward the Climate Action Plan, toward the affordable housing plan. She gets it. She understands policy decisions. She doesn't react to one-off decisions. She brings people together. 

She actually likes to hear from people who have different opinions. And she likes to figure out what the common ground is. She has the passion and the energy. She also reaches out to her colleagues, even the ones she disagrees with, to have this conversation.

I've also endorsed Amy Ryan and Jon Mitchell and Theodore Nollert because, again, they've been involved in the Complete Community strategy from both the planning board, and from Amy from being on council — they get the bigger picture.

DTH: What do you think would happen if the candidates you've endorsed were to lose the election?

PH: I think it'd be sad for Chapel Hill because the other slate represents one part of the community and not the whole part. They just want to stop things, but they don't have plans for the future. 

Doing the work and being open to collaborating with your other council colleagues, whether they agree with you or not, would be sacrificed because none of them have reached out to me, even to learn more about the job or what's involved. They're just making assumptions and going. And that's not a way to lead, by making assumptions and only listening to parts of the community. You have to be willing to work together for the future. And I don't see that quality in those folks.

DTH: There has been some divisive rhetoric surrounding the election. What are your thoughts on that issue?

PH: I think it shows us at that crossroads of trying to understand what the pressures of growth mean for the community. And for some people, it's too much. They don't want to grow at all. Other people understand that we have to make changes, and we have to shape the growth.

I think you're seeing it nationally that people feel emboldened to, instead of having respectful discourse, they feel emboldened to smack. And I hate that because I didn't want that to come to Chapel Hill. But we are seeing it. They're smacking verbally, they’re smacking by stealing signs. They’re smacking by posting misinformation and making accusations, instead of talking about what plans they have for making Chapel Hill a better place.

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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