Chapel Hill: Opinion

Mark Kleinschmidt: The gift of having been Chapel Hill’s mayor

By Mark Kleinschmidt

Town of Chapel Hill

I am so proud to have served as Chapel Hill’s mayor these last six years. We turned a corner and have embraced our place within the region and assumed a deserved role as one of the most forward-thinking, well-planned, progressive communities in the country.

No mayor can ever claim sole responsibility for achieving the successes our town has enjoyed; indeed, our community’s continued health and well-being as well as its commitment to its values are achievements of every one of us who call Chapel Hill home. To have stood beside each of you as we created and then began implementing a 21st-century vision of our town was very humbling. I am confident that we will continue this success as we move into the future together.

When I first came to office, I often spoke of the need to heal. We had just come out of a hotly contested campaign season and were in the midst of an economic downturn that settled forever the question of whether or not we were a recession-proof community. We buckled down, embraced each other and began planning for our new future.

We created a new comprehensive plan, articulated and began implementing an affordable housing policy, put a new focus on the success of our youth, and struggled with and ultimately adopted an economic development plan that is addressing our longstanding need for a more diverse tax base.

We recommitted ourselves to a transit future that honors our desire for a less auto-centric environment, and on this most recent election day committed to an investment plan to improve our stormwater facilities; parks, greenways, and trails; streets and sidewalks; and the ability to control our solid waste future.

This most recent election provides us another opportunity to remember the strength we have when we are all pulling together. The democratic process is one that is designed to create conflicts – not violent or uncivil ones – but conflicts that allow ideas to be tested and refined.

The process gives us confidence to take risks together knowing that success will bring great things, and that when we miss the mark, we will be there to regroup together – because we all are in this together.

It is my hope that we, as a community, will heed George Washington’s caution against political factions that tend to focus their energy on jealousy and retribution rather than the best interests of the people. We see this operating in Raleigh and Washington, and we must not replicate that here in our town lest we risk losing the community character that distinguishes us from others.

Join me in congratulating our new and returning elected officials. I spent many months on the campaign trail with them, and to a person, I am confident they share your and my love for this community.

I know they are eager to continue standing with the rest of us to take risks, to comfort when crises occur, and to be evangelists of Chapel Hill values. Let us remember that they are, like us, human beings – with jobs, families, and frailties. When conflicts occur, do what we do best and offer your advice constructively. Chapel Hill’s continued success is dependent on the rest of us helping them.

I thank you all for the gift of having been the mayor of this great town. Thank you for the support and for all you have taught me. I look forward to continuing to work with you to make sure our community remains a welcoming place for everyone.