Michael Starks sought a seat on Clayton's Town Council six years ago on a whim.
"I just put my name in because I wanted to listen to what was going on," he said.
He filed as a candidate but did not campaign.
In the town's 1999 election, he came in sixth with 40 votes, garnering 2 percent of all votes cast. He beat a write-in candidate who picked up one vote but trailed the top three vote-getters -- who became council members -- by at least 300 votes each.
This year, Starks said bigger issues drew him back as a candidate and made him more serious about running. He put up campaign signs around town this time.
"It boils down to -- the big issue is we're not very responsive to the citizens' concerns," said Starks, who works for General Electric as an assembly and test technician.
Starks pointed to a development east of downtown and a related extension of Front Street that council members approved despite residents' protests about traffic and safety concerns. The issue devolved into a lawsuit and an out-of-court settlement this year, involving residents from the predominantly African-American north side of Clayton, town officials and both sides' lawyers.
The matter triggered his decision to run again. It irked Starks that the town "couldn't settle this without somebody taking an action they never should have had to take."
His viewpoints on such issues led another council hopeful, the Rev. Raymond C. Pittman, to endorse Starks.
"[We] have some of the same concepts about redistricting and equal representation," said Pittman, who withdrew from the race last week after the African Methodist Episcopal Church reassigned him to a congregation in the western part of the state.
"With the growth of Clayton, it becomes more difficult to understand the concerns and issues of the town's citizens," Starks said. "District elections will provide a larger group of candidates and stimulate constructive exchange of ideas."
Starks lives in the Ellington subdivision off N.C. 42, south of U.S. 70. It's a part of town that is currently not represented on the council. All five voting council members live in neighborhoods on the east side of town.
Town officials originally hoped to put district-based elections to voters in an advisory referendum this November. But the referendum failed to get approval from state lawmakers before the legislative session ended this year.
If residents supported district-based elections in 2007, council members elected this year would help determine how to carve up voting districts.
Staff writer Peggy Lim can be reached at 836-5799 or firstname.lastname@example.org.