I recently attended the “Essentials of Municipal Government” training for newly elected officials. I learned a lot, and some of it was surprising. Many of my classmates were from towns much smaller than Carrboro and the majority of these small towns do not have a town manager or any public administrator! Officials in these towns do it all, which is no easy task. I am happy I dodged that bullet.

Another distinction was that in many towns, the mayor does not vote like our mayor does, except in cases of a tie. Of course, in the towns where the mayor functions somewhat in the role of the town manager, this makes more sense than it would in Carrboro.

During the training, we covered topics such as financing, open meeting laws, and running efficient board meetings. We discussed relationships between elected officials and other public officials and employees, and we considered environmental issues. I was pleased to see how much we do right in Carrboro. We are years into wrestling with hard topics, especially regarding energy issues, where, unfortunately, many other local governments have yet to undertake these concerns.

At the training, participants received several helpful resources and we made connections with new officials in other towns. I know I will be consulting both the resources and my colleagues as I continue to grow in my new position.

Two days after returning from the training, I participated in my first board retreat, attended also by several members of town staff. We came up with a list of our values and priorities (as they pertained to commercial development) for the upcoming year. The values we identified were the following (in no particular order):

New development should …

  1. Not harm existing businesses;
  2. Provide entrepreneurial opportunities for diverse Carrboro residents;
  3. Provide job opportunities for diverse Carrboro residents;
  4. Engage and build community;
  5. Be consistent with our environmental ethic;
  6. Provide long-term tax revenue ;
  7. Respect the character and history of our town;
  8. Support a multi-modal system of transportation and parking;
  9. Help develop/promote a local living economy;
  10. Sustain and protect existing neighborhoods.

Our priorities all related to these values, such as increasing commercial zoning, and exploring ways to encourage commercial businesses and offices to locate in village mixed-use developments. We also discussed creating a “Local Living Economy Task Force,” and assessing and improving entrepreneurship. Finally, of utmost importance to the board was the need to review our ordinances in an effort to regulate land uses and activities based on water usage.