NCCU professor will run for mayor of Carrboro

mschultz@newsobserver.comApril 11, 2013 

"I am not afraid to speak up," Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle says. Lavelle announced Thursday, April 11, 2013, that she will run for mayor of Carrboro.

MARK SCHULTZ — mschultz@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Saying she’s not afraid to speak her mind or take a minority position, Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle announced Thursday she’s running for mayor.

Lavelle, who is serving her second term on the Board of Aldermen, is the first candidate trying to succeed Mayor Mark Chilton, who decided not to seek a fifth term.

Lavelle, 52, is an assistant professor at the N.C. Central University School of Law and up for tenure, but said she has spoken with her dean and is confident she can do both jobs.

She said her commitment to transportation planning, growing the town’s tax base and working on a wide variety of community groups make her qualified for the town’s top post.

Lavelle chaired the Metropolitan Planning Organization when Orange County voters passed a half-cent sales tax to pay for bus improvements and a future light-rail line to Durham.

“I have a real interest in not only transit but especially biking and walking,” she said.

Noting Carrboro’s first hotel, now nearing completion on East Main Street, Lavelle said she is also committed to finding ways to boost the town’s economy without sacrificing its personality.

“We need to figure out a way to identify revenue streams so our taxes don’t keep going up and up and up,” she said.

Lavelle became a town resident with the controversial annexation of areas north of town in 2006. She said she is sensitive to those who don’t want to see downtown’s density and commerce spread into neighborhoods.

She would like to see more events like this weekend’s Open Streets festival, when part of downtown will close to automobile traffic.

“These are ways to have people come here and buy things and then leave,” she said.

Lavelle said she has not been afraid to take a minority position on the Board of Aldermen. She cited her vote against the town’s solicitation rules, since repealed, that limited hours that day laborers could wait along Jones Ferry Road for jobs. She also voted for the Orange Water and Sewer Authority’s plan to seek access to Jordan Lake water during a drought, a move some critics worried could undo water-conservation efforts.

Lavelle said she has been thinking of running since Chilton decided not to run.

“I’m sure she’d do a fine job,” the mayor said Thursday afternoon. But he won’t be endorsing anyone in the race.

“People have listened to what I’ve had to say for too long already,” he said.

Lavelle’s partner Alicia Stemper videotaped the alderwoman’s announcement beneath the giant elm on the Town Hall lawn Thursday. The couple live in the Fox Meadow neighborhood with their two children, 17 and 14.

In 2011, the pair held an emotional news conference to sign the town’s domestic partner registry, a largely symbolic gesture they took because marriage is not a legal option. Stemper’s 75-year-old father attended.

Carrboro has already had a gay mayor. Mike Nelson was elected five times.

“I don’t think it’s an issue at all,” Lavelle said. She noted how a recent news story reported she would be Carrboro’s first female mayor since Ellie Kinnaird, now a state senator, instead of the first gay or lesbian mayor since Nelson.

“That kind of made me laugh,” she said.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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