CARRBORO – Retiring Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said just before his roast and toast Tuesday evening, “I feel honored, even though I am about to be dishonored.”
And honored he was as elected officials, friends and family gathered to sling insults and heap on praise for the leader who has dedicated more than 20 years of activism to our community.
“It’s been a really great experience the last eight years as mayor,” Chilton said. ” I’ve really enjoyed it, from being in the holiday parade, to chasing protesters out of the proposed CVS building, to being arrested at Moral Monday. You name it, it has been a wild ride.”
Carrboro Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle, who is running unopposed for Mayor of Carrboro, opened the roast with a few kind words about her predecessor and then got down to business: “I hope you enjoyed those heartfelt remarks because it is all downhill from here.”
The roast was hosted by the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and EmPOWERment, Inc., a non-profit organization that works to educate the community about affordable housing and to promote economic development.
Serving as Mayor of Carrboro since 2005, this year marks 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.
In 2000, Chilton became the Executive Director of EmPOWERment, Inc,. and served in the position for two years. He continues to work with the organization as Director of Special Programs.
“It means a lot to me,” Chilton said. “I didn’t ever think it would be, but it has shaped up to be my life’s work.”
Current Executive Director Delores Bailey said that she got involved with EmPOWERment in 2002 because of Chilton.
“Having his knowledge, having his ability, and the fact that he is a realtor, an attorney and an ex-director of EmPOWERment has just made it wonderful,” Bailey said.
To celebrate his “jack of all trades” resume and love of poker, each table in the Century Center was decorated with playing cards.
Audience members included former State Senator and former Mayor of Carrboro, Ellie Kinnaird; Orange County Superior Court Judge Carl R. Fox; Carrboro Board of Aldermen members Sammy Slade, Damon Seils, Michelle Johnson, Jacquelyn Gist and Randee Haven-O’Donnell; Chapel Hill Town Council members Sally Greene and Donna Bell; Orange County Commissioners Bernadette Pelissier and Penny Rich; and Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools Board of Education members James Barrett and Annetta Stokes Streater.
Mayor Bill Bell made the trek from Durham to celebrate and support for Chilton.
The roasting honors belonged to Orange Politics blogger Ruby Sinreich, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Chris Marthinson, Orange County Commissioner Mark Dorosin and brother Andrew Chilton.
“I’ve known him for more than two decades. We were in college together. We were in a small cohort of college students who plotted to take over the world… and we did!” Kleinschmidt joked.
Kleinschmidt later added, “Mark, really I sincerely want to thank you for completing your terms of office governing the West Chapel Hill Neighborhood Association.”
Kleinschmidt lovingly mocked Chilton’s go-to style, including the classic hats and the recognizable Carolina blue tie. Carrboro Board of Aldermen members wore fedoras to pay homage to the outgoing Carrboro mayor.
On June 3, during the peaceful protest against the policies passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, Chilton and close to 150 others were arrested—including Bell, Seils, Johnson and Slade—for the event dubbed Mega Moral Monday. (Technically the number of arrestees from the Board of Aldermen constituted a quorum.)
“Just this summer he drove himself to Raleigh, and then got out of his car and demanded to be taken into custody by the Capitol Police! That’s leadership. That is the Chilton legacy. In the Chilton home, it truly is, ‘do as I say, and not as I do,’” Kleinschmidt said.
Seils said following his remarks about serving on the Board of Aldermen with Chilton, “Mark, I don’t know if it is these last six months that we have spent working together [that is so memorable], or if it was that one night we spent together in the cool, sterile light of the Wake County Detention Center.”
Zack Ward, owner of DSI Comedy Theater, served as the Roastmaster of ceremonies and said this just before the program began: “We’ll see if he shows up. That’s really the big thing. He hasn’t answered any of his emails about the event, so there ya go.”
Haven-O’Donell and Gist paid tribute to Chilton through a song about the widely known fact that the mayor takes his time to answer emails.
“The idea of a roast is really to celebrate the person,” Ward said. “This is something that we are definitely going to feel tonight. Mark is someone that everyone can relate to and be friends with, and as a mayor, he has done incredible things for the Town.”
During the ceremony, Ward teasingly added, “Mark Chilton was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1991 while he was still in school. He got his bachelor’s degree in geography in 1993, and then he used that geography degree to figure out that he was in the wrong town and moved back to Carrboro.”
Senriech, who has known Chilton from since their UNC undergraduate days, said that she helped in his town council election campaign.
“Since I went to college with Mark, it is not that hard to think of things that are embarrassing, so I am relying on that,” Senriech said.
During their 24-year friendship, Senriech said Chilton influenced her attitude toward political activism.
“When he was elected [to the Town Council] in 1991 and took office at the age of 21,” Senriech said. “That showed a whole generation of us that we could actually do stuff.”
The evening finished with a toast given by Chilton’s mother, Mary-Nell Chilton, as the attendees raised their glasses in unison.