Friday, June 14, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Graham picks new member for city council

Graham’s city council named Bonnie Whitaker – the chairman of the city’s appearance commission and a member of the Historic Resources Commission, two of the city’s advisory committees – to be the newest member of the city council.  She will fill out the remaining two years of the city council term of Jennifer Talley, who was elected as the city’s mayor in November.

Councilman Ricky Hall nominated Whitaker, which was seconded by councilman Bobby Chin; she was elected 4-0, with the additional votes of Talley and Joey Parsons.

Whitaker, a 25-year U.S. Air Force veteran who retired in 2010 as a Sr. Master Sgt. E8, has lived in Graham for seven years.  She said she “likes the small town feel” Graham offers.

She now works as a quality assurance representative for the Defense Contract Management Agency in Greensboro.

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According to the questionnaire she filled out, Whitaker shares the current council’s view that the rate of residential development has been “too fast” and that some of that new development has been “too dense.”  She noted, “R-7 thru R-15 density neighborhoods 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.”

In fact, in her response to the area of strongest disagreement with any action taken by the city council in the past five years, Whitaker say, “In a nutshell, their unwillingness to take actions to slow the growth rate of Graham.”

Whitaker expresses opposition to requiring city employees to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.  “I oppose a vaccine mandate,” she wrote in her application, “because I believe in the United States Constitution, our individual liberties, and our jurisdiction and sanctity over our own bodies, which is always a very personal decision.”

[Story continues below photos.]

Photos of Whitaker before and after her appointment as Graham’s newest city council member:

Bonnie Whitaker with Graham mayor Jennifer Talley after the Graham city council meeting Tuesday night, February 8, when Whitaker was appointed to fill the remaining two years of Talley’s council term.
Whitaker in the audience at the outset of the council meeting, before the council made its selection.
Whitaker greeted and talked with each of her future colleagues, here with city councilman Joey Parsons.
Councilman Ricky Hall, who nominated Whitaker, after the city council meeting. Both Hall and Whitaker live in the Valleyfield subdivision off Lacy Holt Road. Whitaker is president of the home owners association.
Councilman Bobby Chin greets Whitaker on his way out after the meeting.

Whitaker also voiced opposition to the downtown Master Plan developed by a consultant several years ago.  She says she would like to see the plan “abolished.”  She adds, “Graham is not Chapel Hill, nor do I wish it to become so.”

Asked specifically about whether downtown parking should be eliminated or minimized in exchange for wider sidewalks, as recommended by the plan, Whitaker expresses opposition.  “Parking is already an issue downtown,” she says.  “I agree that pedestrians need to be able to negotiate the downtown area safely. Perhaps more crosswalks are needed, but giving up valuable parking is not the answer.”

A Raleigh native, Whitaker graduated from UNC-Wilmington.

Whitaker sat in the audience throughout the remainder of the three hour and forty-five minute council meeting.  She will be sworn in at the city council’s March meeting on March 8.

Whitaker lives on Greenview Drive in Graham with her partner of 17 years.

The other 11 applicants for the position included four unsuccessful candidates who were on the ballot in November 2021: former city council member Melody Wiggins, who placed third for the two open seats; former city councilman Chip Turner, who had run against Talley for the mayor’s position in November; Edith Montoya, who placed fourth among the seven council candidates on November’s ballot; and Daniel Alvis, who placed fifth among the council candidates in November.

Three businessmen: Adam Miller, who works at Frank’s Jewelry on North Main Street; Alton Eugene “Gene” Myrick, who operates Gene’s Automotive on West Elm Street; and Dean Ward, who operates Triad Turf Management and Jadco container and dumpster service, who is also a long-time member, and current chairman, of the city’s planning and zoning board.

Also applying were Jim Young, who was an unsuccessful candidate for mayor in 2017 against then-mayor Jerry Peterman, although Young was said to have withdrawn his interest in the appointment; Richard Rohrer, who has lived in the city a total of 32 years; and Kyle E. Eckmann.

A 12th candidate, George Graus, submitted his application on January 31, a day after the council’s set deadline of January 30.

See earlier coverage of applicants to fill the Graham’s city council vacancy:

Five more residents, now totaling 11, apply to fill city council vacancy:

Four more Graham residents make bid for council appointment:

First two applicants for Graham council post lost bids for a seat in 2021:

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