CHAPEL HILL – Later this month, the Chapel Hill Town Council will appoint a new member to fill the seat left vacant by Penny Rich—and after a flurry of applications right before Monday’s deadline, Council members will have eleven residents from which to choose.
The eleven applicants include a former Town Council member, several former candidates, a former Transportation Board chair, a current Planning Board member, and one student at UNC.
Town clerk Sabrina Oliver has to verify all the last-minute applicants to ensure they meet the criteria—eligible candidates have to reside in Chapel Hill and be registered voters—and then the candidates will get a chance to make their case at a special Council meeting next week.
“The applicants will have an opportunity to make brief remarks regarding their interest in serving,” says Town spokesperson Catherine Lazorko. “That will occur at a special meeting of the Town Council on January 14…(and) it’s an opportunity for the community to learn more about these people who would like that seat.”
Six residents submitted applications on Monday, including former Council member Sally Greene. Greene was elected to the Council in 2003 and served two terms before stepping down in 2011; at least one potential applicant, George Cianciolo, withdrew his name last year after learning that she was interested.
That makes Greene the presumed frontrunner in the race, but she’s only one of six qualified applicants who applied on Monday. The other last-minute candidates are:
• David Jackson, a recent arrival to the area from Colorado who was active in Chapel Hill 2020;
• Jennifer Marsh, an attorney at UNC’s Center for Civil Rights;
• Bjorn Pedersen, a UNC student making his first bid for office;
• Amy Ryan, a Planning Board member who was one of the first to declare her interest in the seat last year;
• and Carl Schuler, a nurse at UNC Hospitals who first ran for Council in 2011.
Greene, Jackson, Marsh, Pedersen, Ryan, and Schuler join five other candidates who submitted their applications before this week:
• Loren Hintz, the former chair of Chapel Hill’s Transportation Board who’s currently serving on the Orange County Commission for the Environment;
• Gary Kahn, a first-time candidate who says he wants to be a voice for Southern Village;
• Paul Neebe, a classical musician and real estate broker who says the town needs to expand its tax base to keep housing affordable;
• Maria Palmer, a pastor and educator who says she wants to engage Chapel Hill’s Latino community and bring more voices to local government;
• and Aaron Shah, a member of Chapel Hill’s Sustainability Committee who’s making his second bid for an open Council seat.
All eleven candidates will have the chance to speak at that special Council meeting on Monday, January 14; that’ll take place in Council Chambers at 6:00 p.m., broadcast on Channel 18 and streaming live on the town’s website, TownOfChapelHill.org.
Following that meeting, Lazorko says the Council could make a decision fairly quickly.
“The Council will consider making an appointment to fill the vacancy at a special meeting scheduled for January 23,” she says.
Keep checking Chapelboro.com throughout the week as we take a closer look at each of the eleven candidates.