Meet the candidates challenging Mayor Pam Hemminger for Chapel Hill’s top job
Three candidates — incumbent Pam Hemminger, Chapel Hill City Council member Hongbin Gu and UNC law student Zachary Boyce — are running to be Chapel Hill’s next mayor.
The election will take place on November 2.
Hemminger, the current mayor, served the community of Chapel Hill for 30 years with three terms as mayor.
She has done everything from financial forecasting to helping nonprofits become financially viable, to community service on the school board and as a county commissioner.
“I love this community,” Hemminger said. “We have some exciting things happening in Chapel Hill…I’ve really worked hard for more economic development for our community to help us become a sustainable place.”
Hemminger said she wanted Chapel Hill to have its own solar farm.
She also said she wanted to build a new parking lot downtown to create more jobs. The parking lot would be funded by parking revenue, projections and signing leases with different businesses, she said.
“I’m a finance girl, so I really understand how to bring the financing together to understand how we’re leveraging our dollars and how we’re paying for things without burdening taxpayers,” Hemminger said.
Boyce, a graduate student dual enrolled in both law school and UNC’s library and information science faculty, was born and raised in Fayetteville. He is a first-generation student who studied psychology and neuroscience with a focus on trauma and resilience at UNC-Wilmington.
After graduating, he worked with the Peace Corps in Ecuador as a youth and family development volunteer.
“I am running for mayor because I believe we can bridge the quality of interagency service provided to the community by placing graduate scholars in administration who have direct access to the body of knowledge,” Boyce said.
He said he plans to continue supporting divestment from fossil fuels and other carbon industries. He also said he aims to expand access to green spaces and increase access to public transport.
Boyce added that his platform is grounded in research and rehabilitation, while prioritizing racial equity.
“If Mayor Hemminger is serious about demonstrating her commitment to racial equity and to historically excluded populations from the community, the best thing she can do for black people in Chapel Hill and across the state of North Carolina is to withdraw his candidacy immediately,” Boyce said.
Gu grew up in China and came to Chapel Hill over 20 years ago as a graduate student. After earning a doctorate in mathematical psychology and a master’s degree in statistics, she began working at the UNC School of Medicine. Gu has served in different school organizations, volunteered for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Municipal Schools PTA, and served on the Chapel Hill City Council for four years.
“During those hours of volunteering I realized that there are so many needs in our community, when it comes to food or security with housing needs, there are kids who really don’t have a stable family environment,” she said.
Gu said his platform is made up of three elements: the economy, the environment, and the diversity of our community.
“We need to make sure we have a community that will provide affordable housing and active transportation options like transit, bicycling and walking for people,” she said.
She said her first-hand experience with massive gentrification in China made protecting vulnerable communities in Chapel Hill from a growing wealth gap one of her top priorities.
“I would really like that we were to create a community that, like I said, that I would like to be greener, more inclusive and more resilient to the challenges that we face,” Gu said.
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