Thursday, June 13, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

Gibsonville mayor, one alderman unopposed; four compete for other three alderman seats

Gibsonville voters will decide three seats on their board of aldermen as well as consider the re-election of their long-serving mayor.

Mayor Lenny Williams, 86, is unopposed as he seeks his sixth, four-year term for re-election.  Williams served as an alderman between 1993 and 2001.  He won his first election as mayor in 2001, for a two-year term, defeating fellow board member Sandy Moulton, who had been appointed the previous year on a 3-2 vote after mayor Bill Moricle died in office.

Williams has gone on to win five, four-year terms in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019.

Also unopposed is Paul Dean, who is seeking a two-year term to complete the term of Paul Thompson, who died less than a year after his election in 2021.  Dean was appointed to replace Thompson, but now seeks to win election to the two years remaining in that term.

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The competitive races are for two board of aldermen seats now held by long-time member and the mayor pro tem Mark Shepherd, and Irene Fanelli, who was appointed earlier this year to fill out the term of Yvonne Maizland, who married and moved to Virginia. Fanelli had been the runner-up in 2021.

Two newcomers, Darla Lawson and Tangela Mitchell, are also seeking one of those two seats.

Biographical information on the candidates can be found here:

The Alamance News solicited responses to an issues questionnaire from the four candidates for the two contested board of aldermen seats.  The responses of Fanelli and Shepherd begin on page 11.  Mitchell refused to answer the questionnaire, responding by email, “Regrettably, I must decline, as I’m concerned about potential edits to my responses.”

Publisher Tom Boney, Jr. had advised all candidates in the letter soliciting their responses that, if their responses exceeded the stated word limits, their answers would be edited to comply with 15-, 25-, and 50-word limits established for each question.

Boney responded to Mitchell’s email by reminding her that her “responses will be edited ONLY IF they exceed the stated word limits.”  But she did not respond further or provide any of the requested biographical information.

She and all other candidates were told if they did not respond to the questionnaire, all of their responses would be listed as “Refused to answer.”

Meanwhile, follow-up emails and phone calls seeking her responses were sent to Lawson on Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Wednesday morning, reached by phone, she said she had not received the information.  She said she would respond in the afternoon. A new set of questions and a biographical form was sent to her, but as of press time on Wednesday night, she had not responded.

Of the two candidates who did respond, both incumbents, they both say that the tax rate set earlier this year by the board, 49 cents per $100 valuation, is “about right,” that the board should not seek to lower it to a “revenue neutral” rate, and that the rate established is “fair” to the town’s property owners.

As to a pay raise for members of the board of aldermen, both say they would oppose any increase in pay during their four-year term.

“The board received an increase after 14 years,” Shepherd added, “I would not believe this issue would be revisited in the near future.”

The board gave itself and the mayor a $700 per year raise in January 2022, with most members having previously stated in response to earlier candidate questionnaires that they would not support an increase, but the board voted unanimously for the increase.  Members of the board of aldermen are currently paid as follows: mayor, $4,100 annually; mayor pro tem, $3,700 annually; and aldermen, $3,400  annually.

Both incumbents believe that current levels of funding for the fire department and parks and recreation department are “adequate.”

Shepherd says that adequate funding is also provided for the police and public works departments, as well as the town’s library.  Fanelli says more funding should be provided to each.

A new police station and new library are the top priorities for both Fanelli and Shepherd.

Fanelli’s second tier of priorities would be expanding the public works department and renovating the fire station.  Lowest among the five choices provided for the candidates would be a fire department training center.

Shepherd rates all three other expansions as a third tier priority.

Asked their assessment of race relations in the town, and whether any changes in ordinances are need to address them, both Fanelli and Shepherd do not see any problems.

Says Shepherd, “ Our town may have problems, but I believe it is on a lower scale.  I grew up here and I haven’t heard or experienced any issues of color or race to be a problem. Not sure any policies should change or new ones adopted.”

Similarly Fanelli, says, “I have not personally observed any issues regarding the racial climate. I believe the diversity of the town adds to the character of the town. There are always opportunities to improve relationships, so everyone needs to come to the table willing to contribute, to listen and learn and be respectful.”

She’s also skeptical about the need for new ordinances to address anything about race. “I do not believe ordinances can dictate interpersonal relationships. Town services must be offered to the residents in an equitable manner. The Board can set an example of working together and with the residents to assure we continue to build strong communities where everyone comes together with kindness and respect.

The full questionnaire can be found HERE

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