Politics & Government

Wake Forest commissioners take on larger economic development role

Wake Forest Board of Commissioners voted recently to create two new positions: economic development director and economic development coordinator.

The town previously paid the Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce about $100,000 a year to handle economic development efforts to recruit new businesses. Now the town will take over this responsibility.

The economic development director will work full time to recruit businesses and oversee town policy that affects business and growth. The economic development coordinator will work part time help businesses that relocate to or open in Wake Forest.

“We thought it would be appropriate to bring that operation in-house since the town is growing rapidly,” said Deputy Town Manager Roe O’Donnell.

Town leaders are looking for ways to build a diverse economy as more people move in. Increasing the number of businesses in Wake Forest was a major talking point for most candidates running for seats on the town board this fall.

Swearing-in ceremonies

This fall’s elections are behind us. Now it’s time for the winners to take their oaths of office.

The Apex Town Council will have a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday at 7 p.m. – but not before the current council considers approving the annexation for the controversial Sweetwater development at 6 p.m.

The annexation is expected to pass, the final step in approving the 165-acre mixed-use development that will bring hundreds of homes and commercial development to an area off U.S. 64.

For the swearing-in, Lance Oliver will take over as mayor from Bill Sutton, who did not seek election. The other new council member is Wesley Moyer, who unseated incumbent Scott Lassiter. Incumbent Bill Jensen, who has served 16 years on the board, will start his fifth term after winning re-election.

Holly Springs also will have its swearing-in ceremony Tuesday at 7 p.m. Incumbent Cheri Lee and newcomer Tom O’Brien were the top two vote-getters in the November election. Lee, a Wake County Public School System substitute teacher, won her second term on the council. O’Brien, an account manager with Time Warner Cable Business Class, unseated three-term incumbent Tim Sack for the second spot.

Key to the City

A Turkish-born UNC chemist said his latest accolade has created another opportunity for people from different cultures to learn about each other.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt awarded Aziz Sancar this week with the Key to the City in honor of his 2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Sancar, the Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC’s School of Medicine, won the prize for his groundbreaking work in mapping DNA repair. He is a native of Turkey but has worked at UNC since 1982 and is a self-avowed “fanatic about UNC sports.”

He and his wife, UNC professor Gwen Sancar, also work to promote understanding between Turks and Americans through their foundation and the Carolina Turkish House (Turk Evi).

“I think it’s important, especially in these dangerous times that we’re living through, that we all know about one another, and that when we do, we are more alike than different,” Sancar said. “If the Turkish House survives after Gwen and I are gone, that will be just as important to us as the Nobel Prize.”

Great Schools group praises Wake commissioners

Great Schools in Wake lauded outgoing school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner and the new Wake County commissioners at a forum this week.

Kushner’s term as Wake County school board chairwoman ends Tuesday. Kushner drew loud applause at this week’s assignment forum organized by Great Schools, a left-leaning community group that promotes public schools in Wake.

“We’ve already seen some remarkable things come from our school system under the leadership for two years of Christine Kushner, which has been amazing,” said Yevonne Brannon, chairwoman of Great Schools in Wake.

Brannon also said that Commissioners Matt Calabria, Jessica Holmes and Sig Hutchinson, who were all elected in November 2014, have made history over the past year. She cited accomplishments such as raising the minimum salaries for county employees, expanding pre-kindergarten spaces and work on the transit plan.

“I’ve never been more amazed, proud and excited to see the compassion that they have for the people of Wake County and the compassion they have for making a difference in the things that are going on,” said Brannon, a former Wake commissioner.

Compiled by Mechelle Hankerson, Tammy Grubb and T. Keung Hui.

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