Name: Jennifer (Jenn) Weaver
Party affiliation: Democrat
1. What motivated you to enter the current race? I love this community, and our elected leadership is critical to Hillsborough’s future. When Mayor Stevens decided not to run again, it felt really important to keep some continuity in leadership so that the board can keep momentum in both the direction we are headed and in contending with several significant challenges we face. I feel ready to step into this new role, working as mayor to create a Hillsborough where all of our residents and local businesses can thrive.
2. What is your career and educational background? I earned my undergraduate degree at Prescott College in Arizona, a small liberal arts college with a mission for advancing environmental sustainability and social justice. I went to graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill, where I received my masters in political science. Between the births of our first and second children, I worked as a public policy researcher at the Program on Public Life located in the journalism school at UNC, and then later at Clean Water for North Carolina as a water justice researcher. I currently keep busy with my service on the town board, as a parent, and teaching yoga at the Sports Plex.
3. Have you previously held political office? I’ve been on the Board of Commissioners for six years.
4. What makes you feel you are the most qualified candidate to assume this role? My six years as a board member give me a clear understanding of where the town is headed, the abilities and limitations for achieving town goals, and an understanding of the mayor’s role and responsibilities that feel pretty important as we transition away from fourteen years with Mayor Stevens.
I also have a temperament that is well-suited for the mayor’s position. I have strong personal principals that guide my decision-making. I understand when I need to stand resolutely in those beliefs and when compromise is necessary. The Mayor helps bring the board together so that as all positions are aired and questions are asked (in combination with public input and staff expertise) we make it to a decision that we can all live with, even when we don’t completely agree. That type of skillful facilitation of board discussions is crucial to working effectively.
5.What are the issues that are near and dear to you? Dismantling racism, creating equitable, joyful communities, and addressing the climate crisis.
6. What are challenges you see facing Hillsborough that you’d like to address? 1. Taking care of what we’ve got. This is a common refrain among the board and town staff, and it refers to our first duty being to the basic functions of town government such as public safety, streets, trash pickup, water/sewer, maintaining public spaces. As costs continue to rise this is always a challenge, especially to deliver with the excellence to which the staff is committed and the community expects.
2. Affordability and inclusivity. We want Hillsborough to be a place for everyone, regardless of income. This desire is increasingly threatened by wages remaining largely flat for the past decade as costs for living have steadily risen. The cost of housing has risen nationwide by 30% in just three years. The cost of construction has more than doubled. We all know how expensive housing is in Hillsborough and all of Orange County. These and other factors mean more and more people in our community in the middle and lower incomes are feeling squeezed out or unable to move here when they want to. Housing funds from the state and federal government keep shrinking and local government has few tools to mitigate the cost of housing.
It also keeps costing more to provide town services. There has not been a municipal tax increase in 8 years, but it’s questionable how long that can continue with so many pressing needs. We’ve squeezed the budget this long, but that can’t continue forever. Yet any increase in taxes, plus our heavy water and sewer burden, makes it even harder on the populations who are already feeling squeezed.
We also, as a broad community and all the levels and circles within it, have a lot of work to do to dismantle several hundred years of institutionalized racial inequity. That dismantling must also be accompanied by intentionality in creating an equitable and inclusive community. I try to center that in all my work, including parenting. Try, often fail, keep trying.
- Climate change
The climate crisis envelopes everything, influences almost every decision we have to make. A town our size may have few resources to address climate change, but we must do what we can, because it is a tremendous threat. It is not a “maybe” threat, but one that is already having a financial impact. One of the major ways the climate crisis manifests is in wetter weather events. Remember the tremendous amount of water when Hurricane Florence came through? That was from about 6” of rain - imagine if we had gotten the 10-12” originally forecast.
Last year a road washed out during one of those freak thunderstorms that dropped several inches of rain in a couple of hours. The cost of repairing that road is nearly three times our entire streets budget for one year. That is not sustainable, yet it is our new reality. Currently there are no funding streams for state or federal aid for this type of damage, because those pots of money are restricted to named storms.
Mitigating and adapting to climate change must play a central role in our budgeting process, planning and zoning, transportation planning, and meeting our town clean energy goals.