After seven terms as Hillsborough’s mayor, Tom Stevens has decided against running for an eighth term this November. While the artist and consultant plans to devote his time to other pursuits, he and his wife, Debbie Simmers, will remain in Hillsborough. Read the mayor’s personal statement on his decision below:
Dear Friends & Fellow Hillsboroughians,
“I LOVE Hillsborough!” Is the enthusiastic refrain I hear people say every day, from citizens and visitors alike. It is hard to overstate how grateful and honored I am to play a role in the local government of a town that so many people describe with the word “love.”
There’s lots to love about living in Hillsborough: surrounded by history evident in our architecture and landscape, prolific arts, excellent local food and beverages in local venues, outdoor recreation in our distinctive natural areas, safe and friendly neighborhoods - all of which contribute to an authentic sense of place and distinctive small town character.
Likewise, I believe citizens have good reason to take pride in the service and accomplishments of our town government. We practice a high standard for stewardship of our basic infrastructure, investing sensibly in things such as regular road maintenance; a new waste-water treatment plant; attractive way-finding signage; expanded sidewalks downtown, in West Hillsborough, and along Nash Street all the way to Fairview - not to mention wonderful community amenities like Cates Creek Park, Gold Park, and Riverwalk. We facilitated a community driven long-term development plan that emphasizes keeping a town character by steering development toward infill near existing highways rather than sprawling into the countryside. For almost a decade and a half we’ve stuck to that plan, regularly turning down development requests that don’t fit. In those developments that have been approved we’ve insisted on a wide variety of housing types in walkable, connected neighborhoods with nearby commercial and recreational amenities. We have managed to retain a 40% commercial tax base, with a wide variety of employment opportunities fostering locally owned enterprises large and small. We’ve cultivated a thriving tourism industry where visitors can experience and support the same things that locals enjoy. We have developed an exceptional police department that embodies the very best principles of community policing. For all these efforts, both Hillsborough as a community and town government specifically, have been recognized with accolades, awards, and media attention with national reach. Hillsborough Rocks!
While we’ve accomplished much, there’s plenty of work on the horizon. We must deal with perpetual waves of road improvements, with growth pressure and affordability, with local impacts of climate change; we have a train station to build and a reservoir expansion to finish; we have new neighborhoods with new people that need to be welcomed into our town; we have to find a way to secure new public works, police, and fire facilities. We have vibrant activity in all areas of town - north, east, south, west, mid-town at I-85, and downtown - which all should receive careful cultivation.
Serving as the mayor of this exceptional town, unequivocally, has been the most rewarding endeavor of my life. It would be personally satisfying, and I believe there is substantial community support, for me to continue in the same role. That said, I have a growing list of personal duties and opportunities that need attention, and I recognize that Hillsborough could benefit from making room for fresh leadership.
After much thoughtful consideration, I have decided I am not going to run for an eighth term as mayor.
I love this town and will still be around. With a reduced role as a public servant, I anticipate a greater presence as a local artist. And of course, through the remainder of my term I will continue to serve as a passionate spokesperson and leader for Hillsborough.
And what of Hillsborough’s future? Local government is a team endeavor and we have a strong bench not dependent on any one individual. Our town manager and professional staff are some of the finest and most dedicated folks a community could wish to serve us. We have graduated five classes from our Citizens Academy, which substantially adds to the body of well-informed people ready to participate meaningfully in local government on all levels. We have a robust culture on the town board of thoughtful deliberation on issues and making decisions based on the benefit of the entire town, rather than partisan politics or in the interest of particular constituencies. I understand that mayor pro tem Jenn Weaver is considering running for mayor. If so, and she were elected, she would be an outstanding choice.
It takes many heads, hands, and hearts to preserve what is enduring about the Hillsborough we love while shaping the Hillsborough we envision for the future. Please know I am deeply grateful for everyone who has volunteered their precious time and energy for the benefit of this town: those shaping the town in years past; those who I have had the pleasure to work alongside in seven terms as mayor; and those serving Hillsborough in our future to be.
Mayor Tom Stevens