Friday, April 12, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Four more Graham residents make bid for council appointment


Six now seeking appointment; deadline for applications is January 30

Four more Graham residents are seeking appointment to the two-year city council seat left vacant by the voters’ elevation of Jennifer Talley to the mayor’s chair.

The four newest candidates bring to six the number seeking the appointment from the current four members of the council. The council members are expected to turn to the issue of the appointment at their next meeting, on February 8.

The deadline to apply is Sunday, January 30.

The four newest candidates are: Bonnie Whitaker, a member of the city’s Historic Resources Commission; Jim Young, who was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in 2017 against then-mayor Jerry Peterman; Richard Rohrer, who has lived in the city a total of 32 years; and Kyle E. Eckmann, a five-year resident. In fact, the four residents’ time in Graham ranges from five years (for Eckmann) to 32 years for Rohrer.

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They join former council member Melody Wiggins, who was defeated in November (placing third among seven candidates), and unsuccessful candidate Daniel Alvis, who placed fifth among the seven candidates in that same election.

The city council set up a questionnaire that they asked applicants to fill out, giving both their backgrounds as well as responding to about a dozen or more questions on city issues.

Whitaker, Young, and Rohrer are military veterans. Young is the president of the Durham Pistol and Rifle Club, which meets off Jim Minor Road south of Graham. Whitaker is the chairman of the city’s appearance commission and also a member of the city’s Historic Resources Commission.

Three of the four new candidates (Whitaker, Young, and Rohrer) stress the need for public safety spending to increase, although Whitaker and Young say they would oppose raising property taxes to accomplish that purpose; Young says he does not have enough information to voice an opinion on whether taxes would need to be raised.

Three of the four (Whitaker, Young, and Eckmann) say they would oppose mandating a Covid-19 vaccination for city employees; Rohrer did not respond to that particular question.

Two of the four (Whitaker and Rohrer) share the current council’s concern about too much residential development on too dense a scale.

Says Whitaker, “R-7 through R15 density next to R-18 neighborhoods detracts from the rural feel of the area. Consider current residents, i.e. what the accesses to the new neighborhoods will be and the amount of increased traffic.”

Young says he does not have enough information to respond. Eckmann says, “Denser developments make possible to build in desirable infrastructure, like sidewalks, trails, and parks.”

All four indicate that recent residential growth in the city has been “too fast,” with Eckmann qualifying his response by saying “for existing infrastructure.”

Only Eckmann voices support for the downtown master plan and specifically for its proposals to eliminate or minimize parking in favor of wider sidewalks and to eliminate loading zones in downtown.

Each of the four residents said they would seek to run in 2023 for a full, four-year council seat, if they are selected for the council appointment.

The council in December set a January 30 deadline for applicants for the position, with an objective of making a decision at its February 8 meeting.

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