Gibsonville is slated to get two new aldermen on the six-member board. Two incumbents – long-time alderman Ken Pleasants, a 20-year veteran on the board, and first-term member Shannon O’Toole – opted not to seek re-election.
Running for the two available seats are former alderman Paul Dean, first-time office-seeker Irene Fanelli, and Paul Thompson, who has previously run unsuccessfully for alderman and mayor. Dean and Thompson were narrowly edged out in 2019; the second through fifth place finishers were separated by fewer than 58 votes that year. Thompson placed fourth for three seats on that year’s ballot; Dean was fifth.
Bryant Crisp also filed his candidacy, however, he did not furnish biographical data or responses to the newspaper’s questionnaire.
When contacted by telephone by The Alamance News after the Tuesday noon deadline for submitting his information, Crisp assured that he would “get to it,” and send it in later that day. A final email deadline for 2:00 p.m. Wednesday went unanswered.
Among the three candidates who responded to the newspaper’s questionnaire, all three are sympathetic to police chief Ron Parrish’s persistent pleas for additional officers.
Parrish has stated annually during budget meetings with the aldermen that his department is woefully understaffed. This year’s budget added two, one to take effect July 1 when the new budget went into effect and a second on January 1 at the mid-point of the fiscal year.
Asked to state how many additional police officers they felt were needed, the responses ranged from Dean (two) to Thompson (four) to Fanelli (who gave a range of three to five).
Fanelli specified that the town should provide a school resource officer at Gibsonville Elementary School.
All three active candidates said they felt the police department needed more funding. Fanelli and Dean also say the fire department needs more, while Thompson says it is adequately funded.
Dean also says that public works needs more funding.
However, Fanelli and Thompson say they would not raise property taxes in order to accomplish any increases for any of the departments.
Dean says he would be willing to raise property taxes, if necessary, to provide additional funding for the police and fire departments, and for the town’s library.
Parrish has also asked for a new police department building, separate from the department’s current digs within town hall. Fanelli and Thompson rate that a “high” priority, while Dean considers it a “medium” priority.
All three candidates say they support town manager Ben Baxley’s request during this year’s budget cycle to create an $80,000 position for an economic developer.
Dean and Thompson are opposed to the idea of requiring a Covid vaccination mandate for town employees. Fanelli says “neither,” when asked whether she supports or opposes the idea. Dean and Fanelli say they are vaccinated; Thompson gave no response.
Only Dean supports the idea of selling Gibsonville’s acreage (about 130 acres) beside Lake Mackintosh to Burlington, whose city council recently applied for a federal grant in hopes of pursuing such a purchase. Fanelli and Thompson are opposed.
All three voice opposition to the possibility of selling any of the 100 or so additional surplus acreage that the town owns.
Says Fanelli, “The Town is currently updating the Land Development Plan. It is my belief the Town should complete this Plan prior to selling ANY property. We should also assure the Town has considered its own possible use for the property that would be [of] benefit to the Town or residents.”
Likewise, Thompson says, “I would not support selling any of our land until the Town determines its long-term plan. We are currently working on our 20-year Land Development plan and think we need to determine if we want to use any of the land for ourselves in the form of a park or recreational area. I would support selling it if we really needed it to generate revenue, but we are not at that point,” he adds.
On race relations, all three minimize any conflict or controversy within the town. “I could be wrong but I have not seen a racial problem in town,” says Dean.
Similarly, Fanelli says, “There will always be exceptions, but I have not observed race related issues in Gibsonville.”
Thompson says, “I think our Town’s racial climate is as good if not better than most small towns.” Thompson also gave a nod to the town’s long-time mayor, Lenny Williams, who is black, for the town’s harmony on racial issues: “I think our Mayor has done a very good job at recognizing and addressing any racial issues during his tenure.”
Biographical information about each of the candidates who responded to the newspaper’s request for information and responses to the questionnaire begins on page 4. The candidate’s full responses to the questionnaire are on page 5.
See Gibsonville candidates’ responses to the issues questionnaire HERE
See Gibsonville candidates’ biographical information: https://alamancenews.com/meet-the-candidates-for-gibsonville-board-of-aldermen/