James Parham says he’s ready to take a step up.
Wendell’s Mayor pro tem said Tuesday’s he’s planning to seek the Mayor’s post in November.
The seat figures to be up for grabs since Mayor Tim Hinnant has said publicly he does not plan to seek re-election.
Parham is in the final year of his first term as a town commissioner. He has spent the past two years serving as the town’s Mayor pro tem, leading the town’s board meetings in the mayor’s absence.
Though candidate filing doesn’t begin until July 6, Parham says he has already made up his mind about seeking the town’s top office and he has been busy developing a platform he hopes will resonate with voters.
On Tuesday, he endorsed the town’s efforts to move forward with financing plans to address a series of large projects around town, from street and park improvements to police car purchases and a new building at the town’s public works center to house equipment.
“This has to be our number one priority right now because of the interest rates,” Parham said. “We’ve got very little debt and we haven’t seen interest rates this low in a long time.”
Though he endorsed the idea of borrowing the money to address those needs, he also said the town must examine its needs closely to be sure the money spent serves the most useful purpose.
Offering his advice
Parham noted that, as mayor, he would have a vote on town business unless he’s asked to break a tie, but he said that’s OK because he sees the mayor’s role as one of a guide, working to make sure commissioners understand issues before they vote on them and offering his advice to commissioners on how he thinks they should deal with those matters.
Parham says he wants to serve as a voice for all of the town’s residents, but especially for those who traditionally don’t have strong voices: children and the elderly.
He has experience working with both groups. Parham is a retired public school administrator and college professor. He has also served on the East Regional Center’s advisory board and works with the food pantry at Zebulon First Baptist Church delivering meals to the elderly and shut-ins.
Parham says he wants the town to be more strategic in the ways it spends money. “We have to know whether something is a want or a need. We have a lot of wants, but we must be sure we are funding our needs,” Parham said. The best way to do that, he said, is through the development of a capital spending plan that looks out further than one year at a time. He says growth that is just starting will put additional strain on town services, particularly in the town’s planning and police departments.
Both those departments requested additional staff in the budget commissioners are currently considering, but they were not funded under the plan proposed by Town Manager Teresa Piner.
He also said he believes the town can play a role as an advocate for local schools. He pointed to the recent accolades presented to Wendell Elementary and work currently underway to return East Wake High School to a single school as evidence that leaders are making headway toward improving student performance.
The town’s role, he said, is to support positive changes and work with local businesses and organizations to build volunteer support for area schools.
“We don’t need to give them money. We need to help provide them with human resources,” Parham said.
With his announcement last week, Parham becomes the first person to publicly commit to the campaign.
Parham met with a handful of potential candidates in the weeks before his announcement to determine whether those people planned to run. Assured that they weren’t going to run for office, Parham tossed his hat in the ring for the Nov. 3 election. In addition to the Mayor’s seat, two commissioners’ seats will also be up for election – the one Parham currently holds and the seat now held by Commissioner Sam Laughery.