CHAPEL HILL - Five people so far say they want to finish outgoing Town Council member Penny Richs term.
Rich attended her last council meeting Nov. 19. Her last day on the job will be Dec. 2; she joins the Orange County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 3.
While her replacement will only serve until December 2013, it will be a short but important term. The council has a big year ahead, from several major development projects to transportation decisions and implementing the 2020 Comprehensive Plan.
Whoevers chosen could also have a leg up on the competition in next years general election.
In the meantime, town officials said Richs departure leaves the board without one of its strongest voices. It also leaves just two women on the nine-member board.
Rich said her replacement needs to be in tune with whats going on and familiar with the 2020 Plan, a guide to Chapel Hills growth. The council is a part-time job that requires heavy reading, a lot of time and a willingness to be available to residents, she said.
Sometimes you feel like youre never going to see the light of day. Sometimes theres a lull, she said. But youll be working with a group of incredible people.
Former council member Sally Greene, minister Maria Palmer, mortgage lender Jon DeHart, Planning Board member Amy Ryan and Southern Village resident Gary Kahn want the job.
• Greene, a council member from 2003 to 2011, said she didnt realize Rich would leave so soon when she passed on a third term last year. Rich has been an important voice for social justice, affordable housing and the homeless, she said.
Duke University medical researcher George Cianciolo said he wont run but will support Greene.
Its going to be a very important year, he said. It helps that Sally is so experienced, because there is less of a learning curve.
• Palmer hasnt been elected to a local office before but served six years on the State Board of Education, co-chaired a Chapel Hill 2020 group and held other leadership positions. The Peruvian native and 16-year Chapel Hill resident is the founding pastor of Iglesia Unida de Cristo and has been a Chapel Hill News columnist for 12 years.
While I believe my voice as the first Latina on Chapel Hills Town Council would add an important perspective, the issues that concern me affect all the residents of our community, she wrote in an email to council members.
• DeHart also plans to bring a different perspective, although not one most people would expect, he said. He has an extensive financial background, is a moderate voice and has the heart of a servant, but he has been misjudged before as a white male with white hair and a banker, he said.
I want to go out, I want to help, and I want to serve. I think I would be good at it, DeHart said.
• Ryan has been involved in town planning for several years, serving on the Community Design Commission, the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force, as a Central West focus group leader and a 2020 Plan participant.
The community needs an earlier and more substantial role in projects, and the town needs a more formal process, she said. Development and related issues, like student and affordable housing, will be important in the next year, she said. Chapel Hill isnt like other towns and shouldnt be developed that way, she said.
We have a very special place here. Its one of the places thats still a place, she said.
• Kahn, a council watcher for the last year, has lived in Chapel Hill less than two years.
For a small town, Chapel Hill is facing a lot of big-city issues, particularly with development, he said. Kahn cited his background in real estate, retail and fundraising as positive attributes for a council member.