Name as it appears on the ballot: Audra Killingsworth
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.friendsofaudra.com
Occupation & employer: Occupational Therapist at Grace PT and Pelvic Health
Years lived in Apex: 8
1. In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? Why should voters entrust you with this position? What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the town council do differently or better over the course of your term?
I have been on the Council for the last 4 years and have been addressing issues of growth (it’s slowing), stormwater (utility will begin in January), transportation (we have an updated plan and a bond on the ballot), and affordable housing (we have placed 1 cent of our tax dollars to address this). Over the next 4 years, I would like to see our Affordable Housing Plan come to fruition, our Downtown Master Plan started, and our Bond passed to begin to build the Peakway Bridge and expand Jessie Drive.
We have been able to increase our minimum wage for $15/hour for staff and include paid caregiver and bereavement leave. We have been able to put in place a tree protection ordinance to protect our environment. We are a Tree City, Gold SolSmart City, Bee City, and working on a Butterfly City. I have made it a point to be accessible to residents with any concerns and look forward to continuing to do so. My priorities center around three things: making sure we have a healthy community, healthy environment, and healthy economy. My website has a list of priorities and initiatives that have been addressed over the last 4 years to move Apex forward.
2) Given the direction of Apex government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
Yes. We are addressing the biggest concerns of the Apex residents and as you can see above, we are leading with big initiatives.
3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.
The first is that Apex is growing rapidly. Our growth rate has slowed to the lowest level in over a decade because of better decisions being made by the current council. The second is our transportation needs. We are asking for a bond to address streets and sidewalks to include the Peakway Bridge and Jessie Drive, Safe Routes to Schools (sidewalks), and street maintenance. It’s important to finish the Peakway and Jessie Drive because NCDOT delayed construction of 3 major projects (Hwy 64, 55, and Ten Ten Rd.) to around the same timeframe, which will majorly slow traffic. We still need ways to drive through and around town and with the passage of the bond, we would be able to do that. Thirdly, affordable housing is a crisis that is nationwide. We are losing affordable housing at an astronomical rate. We have adopted an Affordable Housing Plan, hired a Housing Manager, and put money toward an Affordable Housing Fund.
4) What’s the best or most important thing the town council has done in the past year? Alternatively, name a decision you believe the council got wrong or an issue you believe the town should have handled differently. Please explain your answer.
The best and most important thing the Town Council has done is we have passed a non-discrimination ordinance. Passing the affordable housing plan is a close second.
As for what we should have done differently: I wish we would have hired our current Town Manager and Police Chief sooner.
5) What prior experience will make you an effective member of the town council and advocate of the issues listed above? Please note any endorsements you have received that you consider significant.
I have been on the Town Council in Apex for the last 4 years and have made it a point to bring voices to the table and advocate for policies and initiatives that bring diversity, equity, and inclusion. I have been endorsed by the following:
Raleigh Wake Citizens Association,
Wake County Democratic Party,
Rep. Julie von Haefen,
Senator Sydney Batch,
Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors, which has been discussing more inclusive, affordable, and diverse housing options,
Triangle Apartment Association, which has been discussing a more diverse, and affordable range of housing options,
Mayor Jacques Gilbert of Apex,
Mayor TJ Cawley of Morrisville,
Christine Kelly – Holly Spring Town Council and candidate for Mayor,
Lindsay Mahaffey – Wake County Board of Education District 8,
Cheryl Stallings – Apex Town Council,
Terry Mahaffey – Apex Town Council,
Ya Liu – Cary Town Council
6) Given the rate of growth in Apex, how will you ensure that growth is well managed and enhances the town rather than detracts from it? Where does density and height fit in in planning decisions, if it does? How do you intend to balance growth with sustainability?
The growth in the Town of Apex has not been managed well, leading to sidewalk gaps, transportation needs, stormwater concerns, and a severe lack of affordable housing. Over the last 4 years, we have made decisions that have slowed the pace of development to our lowest levels in 10 years. We are much more discerning in our decisions over the last 4 years, leading us to turn down developments that do not fit within our vision for the future of Apex. We have a land use map that places density and height at and around our major transportation corridors, and lowers density as we go away from those corridors. Our environmental initiatives have increased our tree protections on developments and buffers around our streams. We prioritize efforts to protect our environment, leading to our renewable energy resolution at the Town level.
7) As with most places in the Triangle, Apex is grappling with issues related to affordable housing. How would you like to see the town approach affordability issues over the next few years? Should it promote apartment living, duplexes, and/or triplexes? Encourage density in single family housing? What do you believe the town is doing right? What could it do better?
We have a plan for that! Our affordable housing plan was adopted early this year and we now have a Housing Manager to spearhead our plan. We also created an affordable housing fund that we have placed 1 cent of our tax money into. Developers have also chosen to contribute to that fund. Not only should we be building new affordable housing, but also protecting and rehabilitating naturally occurring affordable housing. Providing diversity in types of housing is also a necessity. Density isn’t the solution if everything is market-rate.
8) A recent report found racial bias to be “deeply entrenched” in the Apex police culture and deep seated racial bias across the town as an organization as a whole. How has the town addressed racial bias within its police force and within its town culture? What more, if anything, should it do?
We had 2 assessments. The first one identified possible problems. The Town Council then asked for a more detailed cultural assessment to determine what types of problems we had. The latest assessment showed some very problematic issues that the Town Council cannot address. We have a Council-Manager form of government and our role is to hire the Town Manager and that person acts as the “CEO” of the Town. We recently went through the process of hiring a new Town Manager and she hired a new Police Chief. I will say that there were some accusations within that report that were determined to not be true, such as police not getting to certain areas of Town within a reasonable timeframe. I have no doubt that we have great police officers. I also have no doubt that we have some who aren’t. We need police officers who want to be public servants and serve all of Apex’s residents equally. It is that simple.
9) In your view, how can Apex be safer and more accessible using different modes of transportation? What is your vision for public transit, pedestrian and bike safety, especially following recent reports of joggers being hit by cars?
We have a circulator transit route starting in the Spring of 2022. We also now have a plan adopted a couple of years ago called Bike Apex which includes Biking and Pedestrian routes. I envision a more walkable and transportable community that will require less cars and include the ability to walk easily within the Town.
10) Apex was one of a handful of Wake County municipalities not to reimplement a mask mandate recently with the resurgence of the COVID-19 Delta variant. Was this the right decision? How do you feel Wake County and Wake School Board officials have handled the COVID-19 pandemic? If you don’t think the pandemic was handled well, what should have been done differently?
I would have made a different decision, but it was not my decision to make. What I have seen from other municipalities is that even though they have a mask mandate, it is not being enforced. Most of the stores I have gone into have implemented their own mask mandate. I feel that Wake County and Wake County School Board have done a good job handling the pandemic.
11) In what ways should Apex promote economic development? What are your goals for Apex’s downtown and what does the town need to do to achieve those goals? How should the town address its downtown parking issues?
We began to fund economic development opportunities and have hired staff to work to bring industry to the area. We have adopted a Master Downtown Plan to enhance and upgrade it to create a more walkable space with gathering areas and event space to enjoy the charm our Downtown Apex has to offer. We have a plan to increase parking by at least 200 parking spaces.
12) Apex residents love their parks and greenways. How should the town work to preserve, improve, or expand them?
Our parks and greenways need to all connect and we have just started the process to update our Master plan for Park and Recreation. We just updated our park hours based on the current need. And our last bond specifically allocated money to build 2 greenways and create Pleasant Park.
13) If there is anything else you would like to address please do so here.
I have made it a point to be accessible to residents with any concerns. Please take the time to contact me with any questions and to visit my website at www.friendsofaudra.com to see the many policies and initiatives that I have helped implement since I was elected in 2017. I would love to have your vote to serve the residents of Apex for another 4 years.
Early voting is October 23-30 at the John M Brown (Apex) Community Center or on November 2nd at your precinct’s polling place. Thank you!
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