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Johnson joins Carrboro board

By Taylor Sisk
Staff Writer

Carrboro has a new board of aldermen member. Michelle Johnson was the top vote-getter on Tuesday, edging incumbent Lydia Lavelle by two votes. Incumbent Dan Coleman was also elected in the race for three seats. Braxton Foushee, who served on the board from 1969 to 1981, was defeated.
Mayor Mark Chilton was reelected unopposed.

Johnson, Lavelle, Coleman and Chilton will join Jacquie Gist, Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Sammy Slade on the new board. Joal Hall Broun chose not to run for reelection, having served on the board since 1999.

Elected Carrboro Board of Aldermen members Dan Coleman, Michelle Johnson and Lydia Lavelle prepare to thank supporters at their election night gathering at Open Eye Cafe. Photo by Alicia Stemper

Johnson earned 2,188 votes, or 29.87 percent; Lavelle, 2,186 (29.84), Coleman, 1,902 (25.96); and Foushee, 983 (13.42).

Election Day broke to clear skies, and gorgeous weather prevailed throughout. Trish Verne, manning the polls at Carrboro Elementary School, reported a slow, steady flow, with numbers roughly in keeping with expectations. Approximately 17.5 percent of registered voters turned out countywide.
Catherine Devine was out front of the elementary school working a table for the Orange County Democratic Party. “People seem to have their minds made up,” she said.

And, in fact, few seemed surprised by the Carrboro results. Johnson ran a well-coordinated campaign, aligned in advertisements with Chilton, Coleman and Lavelle, who welcomed her aboard Tuesday night.

“I’m really excited to have Michelle join us on the board,” Lavelle said. She added, though, that Broun would be missed, calling her “a really pragmatic, topic-oriented voice of reason that we’ve had for many years on the board. I do think we’re going to miss that.”

Johnson said she believes her experience as a social worker, artist and activist will bring a new perspective to the board. Her priorities will be economic development and growth and how to get more citizens involved in the development process.

She said she wanted the board to engage community members in discussions on the type of commercial development they want to see for downtown, on “how they want to maintain our character, but how we need to grow. Because we definitely need to grow.”

Both Coleman and Lavelle said hiring a town manager would be the board’s top priority.

“That’s something that’s mostly transparent to the voters,” Coleman said, “but if you’re on the board, you deal every day with how critically important that position is to this town.”

Foushee said that despite his defeat, he’d continue to push the issues he brought to the campaign, among them, promoting workforce housing and jobs and engaging the Latino community.
“I’ll still be a voice to be heard,” Foushee said Tuesday night. “Whether they want to listen to me or not, they’re going to have to.”

Coleman said he was optimistic about the immediate future.

“Carrboro is a great town,” he said. “I think we’ve got a spirit where people help each other and understand that we get through hard times together and not apart.

“I love this town, and it’s a real privilege to be in elected office here.”

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