Orange Commissioner Alice Gordon won’t seek re-election

tgrubb@newsobserver.comJanuary 9, 2014 

Alice Gordon


  • In the running

    Two local residents made it official Friday that they will be filing to run for Commissioner Alice Gordon’s District 1 seat in the May primary.

    Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board Vice Chairwoman Mia Burroughs and former Chapel Hill Town Council candidate Gary Kahn plan to file for the Democratic and Republican primaries, respectively.

    Burroughs, 51, is an 18-year Orange County resident first elected to the school board in 2007. She served in 2011-12 as the board’s chairwoman. Burroughs said it will be important to elect a commissioner who is familiar with local schools, and she also plans to advocate for human services, economic development and social justice issues.

    Burroughs has created a campaign website at

    Kahn, 57, is a retail merchandiser and has lived in Southern Village for nearly three years. He ran in the 2013 Town Council election and also sought unsuccessfully in January 2013 to be appointed to former council member Penny Rich’s vacant seat. Kahn has been meeting recently with Orange County’s Republican officials and is planning his campaign now.

— After nearly 24 years, Orange County Commissioner Alice Gordon announced Thursday she won’t seek re-election in November.

“I have had the honor and privilege of being a county commissioner for more than twenty years, and I wish to thank the residents of Orange County for their confidence and trust in electing me six times,” said Gordon, who represents District 1 in southern Orange County. “I believe that we have made great progress in addressing the goals I set out to accomplish when I first ran for office.”

But she’s not done yet. The 76-year-old Chapel Hill resident’s term on the Orange County Board of Commissioners ends in December. Until then, her biggest priority is to push for needed upgrades, repairs and renovations to both Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City schools, she said.

Besides considering a $100 million bond referendum to pay for schools needs, the commissioners have some big decisions ahead, from establishing a new recycling program to planning for a new county jail.

Since first elected in 1990, Gordon has advocated for education, environmental protection and regional transportation.

She helped establish the county’s Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that helps plan for new schools and, more recently, advocated for a new science wing at Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill. The project broke ground in December.

In 1998, she led the creation of the Lands Legacy Program that protects significant natural and cultural resources. The state’s first comprehensive county land-acquisition program, it won the Excellence in County Planning Award from the National Association of County Planners in 2007.

“That’s going to be an enduring legacy, because we’ve protected over 3,000 acres in Orange County,” Gordon said. “It’s really been a dream to have better protections for clean air and clean water.”

Gordon also was instrumental in creating the first joint transportation plan between the Triangle’s eastern and western counties. That process won a 2009 National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Metropolitan Transportation Planning.

Among other responsibilities, she is now the board’s liaison to the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization and its policy board. The MPO is a regional transportation planning board for the western Triangle. Gordon previously served as chairwoman of the Triangle Transit Board of Trustees and the MPO policy board.

Leadership Triangle recognized her contributions to environmental protection and regional transportation in 2006 with the Goodmon Award for exemplary regional leadership by an elected official. She also was honored in 2012 as a Town Treasure by the Chapel Hill Historical Society.

Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs’ and Vice Chairman Earl McKee’s terms also are up this year. McKee said in December that he intends to seek re-election; Jacobs has not announced his intentions.

Filing for the 2014 election season starts at noon Feb. 10. The primary is May 6, and the General Election is Nov. 4.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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