Carrboro Celebrates NC’s 1st Openly-Lesbian Mayor
CARRBORO – Lydia Lavelle was sworn-in as Carrboro’s new mayor Tuesday evening, making history as North Carolina’s first openly-lesbian mayor.
Lavelle took the oath of office along with Jacquelyn Gist, Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Sammy Slade, who resumed their seats on the Board.
“When I announced this spring that I would be running for Mayor this fall, I said that I would, quote, ‘… promote the values and ideals that have helped Carrboro become one of the most progressive and forward thinking communities in North Carolina,’” said Lavelle, who has served on the Board of Alderman since 2007 .
“I am excited about helping to carry on this rich tradition that is Carrboro. I look forward to more work in our laboratory. Thank you.”
Lavelle ran unopposed for mayor, replacing the now retired Mayor Mark Chilton.
Serving as Mayor of Carrboro since 2005, this year marked the end of Chilton’s fourth and final term. He was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1991 as the youngest ever elected official in North Carolina at the age of 21.
The Board honored the outgoing mayor, presenting him with a plaque of recognition.
Chilton said that this wasn’t the end of his involvement in local government, joking that he only lived a block away from Town Hall.
“I am extremely grateful to the voters of Carrboro for having the opportunity to serve on your Board for the past 10 years,” Chilton said. “It’s been a great honor and most of the time has been a lot of fun.”
Chilton put on his trademark fedora for a moment and then switched to a baseball cap emblazoned with the word “Mayor.” He laughingly said that was the hat in which he did his best mayoral thinking, and then promised to pass it on to Lavelle.
The three returning Board members also had the chance to offer remarks about being re-elected.
Gist, who has served on the Board since 1989, said that the issues which the Town faces are “wonderful problems” that she looked forward to solving.
“I was thinking today about the challenges that we face as a Town, and we are so damn lucky to have the challenges that we have. Half of the [election] campaign was about parking, believe it or not,” Gist said. “And we still have a lot to talk about with parking. How lucky are we as a small town to have to figure out where to put, or maybe not park, but thinking of other ways of accommodating all the people that want to come to our downtown. That’s a great problem to have.”
Haven-O’Donnell thanked the voters for their support, though she said voter turnout for this municipal election was lower than she had hoped.
“It’s such an honor to serve a community, your hometown that you love so dearly. I look forward to continuing with the work that was started.” Haven O-Donnell
Slade became emotional as he thanked his fellow Board members and the residents of Carrboro for embracing change and progressive ideals.
“This planet we are on is in real danger, and we need examples of how to be different. I am very grateful to this Town for being different—so thank you, Town,” Slade said.
Slade was named as Mayor Pro Tem, as he was the Alderperson with most seniority who had not yet served in the position.
Filling Lavelle’s Seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen
Now that Lavelle has been installed as Mayor, a seat on the Board is open. The Board has called a special meeting next Tuesday to discuss filling the vacancy.
It could be filled through an appointment process, or the Board could instead pass a resolution calling for a special election.
Noteworthy attendees at Tuesday’s Board meeting included Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party Matt Hughes; Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich; Chapel Hill Town Council Member Lee Storrow; and former State Senator and former Mayor of Carrboro, Ellie Kinnaird.