Name as it appears on the ballot: Blake Massengill
Party affiliation: Republican
Campaign website: www.BlakeMassengill.com
Occupation & employer: General contractor, Self-Employed
Years lived in Fuquay-Varina: 26 years
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 am running for Mayor to continue the progress we’ve made as a town, and to build upon our accomplishments since I’ve been on the Fuquay-Varina Board of Commissioners. When first elected Commissioner in 2013, my goal was to work with town leaders, stakeholders, and citizens to guide our great town into the future, and I feel we are on the right path. As Mayor Pro-Tem I’ve worked hard to reach out to everyone for input, as the board has a duty to serve every Fuquay-Varina resident. Our town leadership is thankfully different than most governmental bodies these days – we don’t have the partisan rancor and bickering that basically shuts down the effectiveness of government; instead, we all work together to try and forge the best path forward for everyone without regard to partisanship. This is partly why we are so effective. I’m also very proud to be endorsed by my friend, the current Mayor – John Byrne. His leadership over the years is why this is such a great place to live. If you want to know how I intend to lead as mayor, just look back to what John Byrne has done and see my blueprint.
My top issues are transportation, growth & taxes, town services, and public safety. We need well maintained roads, commuter transit options, and congestion management. We need more jobs, new businesses, and thriving retail districts, along with low taxes. The question I always ask when considering options is “what is the benefit to the citizens and is this a good use of taxpayer dollars?” We need excellent town services. We need the best public safety we can provide, including police and fire protection. These have been my priorities and will continue to be my focus if elected Mayor.
2) Given the direction of Fuquay-Varina government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
I absolutely believe Fuquay-Varina is headed in the right direction, under the past leadership of Mayor John Byrne and our town commissioners. I’m proud to have been a part of that direction, and look forward to continuing leading our great town into the future as we maintain our direction. Mayor Byrne believes I am the best choice to carry on his legacy and that is why he has endorsed me to succeed him.
3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.
- Traffic management. We must continue to seek out grant funding to compliment tax dollars, as we seek to alleviate traffic congestion. We’ve made great headway, spending $45 million in traffic improvements through a combination of town funding and grants in the last few years, but there is much more to be done. We must continue to strengthen our relationships with state and federal partners, as well as aggressively seek alternative funding sources.
- Public safety. Our police and fire departments are some of the best in the state. We must continue to fund, train and provide competitive salaries to keep our citizens safe.
- Economic development. I will have an aggressive strategy to recruit high-end retail, while also focusing on supporting our downtowns and small businesses. I would like to see us recruit suppliers and manufacturers for our Big 4 companies to locate to Fuquay-Varina, which would create jobs and strengthen their supply chain.
4) What’s the best or most important thing the board has done in the past year? Alternatively, name a decision you believe the board got wrong or an issue you believe the town should have handled differently. Please explain your answer.
In the past 12 months, the Judd Parkway loop was completed. This symbolizes the completion of a project that is 25 years in the making and arguably the most important transportation investment in the Town’s history. Traffic has been my number one concern since I was elected Commissioner 8 years ago, and it will continue to be a huge priority of mine as mayor.
I have been a Fuquay-Varina Commissioner for the past 8 years and I am proud of my work. Nearly every decision made has been unanimous and it is extremely rare for a split vote. I don’t dwell on the past like a Monday morning quarterback, but instead look forward to the future and getting things done in Fuquay-Varina. I am a leader for the future.
5) What prior experience will make you an effective member of the board of commissioners and advocate of the issues listed above? Please note any endorsements you have received that you consider significant.
I believe my experience as Fuquay-Varina town commissioner since 2013, and my role leading that board as Mayor Pro Tem since 2015 have made me an effective member and provide clear evidence of why I am the right person to lead our town into the future. Some of the endorsements I am proud to share include current Mayor John Byrne, former Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Police Benevolent Association.
6) Given the rate of growth in Fuquay-Varina, 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? Do you have a preferred policy on clear cutting trees or other conservation efforts? How sustainable in the long term is the town’s current policy of increasing the tax base to offset raising residents’ taxes?
The Triangle area is a desirable place to live, and we must embrace growth and use the benefits that come with growth for the benefit of the citizens. Throughout the town, we have a variety of density – low, medium and high. This keeps Fuquay-Varina affordable while still maintaining our charm. If we only allowed large lots or only one lot size, prices would be astronomical and affordability would sharply decline.
I believe that our open space guidelines provide for the opportunity to preserve our natural resources. I don’t advocate for clear cutting trees, but I recognize someone’s right to sell their land and someone’s right to develop land. We do have policies in place to encourage conservation, and developers are required to replace certain trees and provide street plantings. We can keep taxes low, as long as we grow. There are only two ways government generates money – growth and taxes. Without growth, taxes will go up, and that’s not what I want to do as Mayor.
7) As with most places in the Triangle, Fuquay-Varina 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?
The high cost of land due to our area being so desirable is causing the price of housing to go up. In addition, material costs are up significantly. As a home builder myself, I understand these challenges. The answer doesn’t lie solely with government. It’s not a problem government can fix alone. I will continue to advocate for a mix of housing options – rentals, apartments, townhomes, condos and single-family units. By maximizing our finite resource of land, these options will be more affordable than a single-family home on a large lot.
8) Recent news reports have suggested a culture of racial bias within the Fuquay-Varina police department and, potentially, within the town’s government overall. Do you feel this is an issue that needs to be addressed, and if so, how should it be addressed? Do you support the board’s recent decision to suspend the Public Safety Committee? Do you support residents’ request for a cultural assessment and report from an outside consultant or do you support hiring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion personnel instead?
While I do not believe there is a culture of racial bias within the Fuquay-Varina police department and the town government overall, I do want every resident to have trust and faith in our Law Enforcement Officers. We need to do everything we can to ensure that trust is merited. I voted to approve a Town strategic plan that is apolitical and that the entire town board approved. This plan identifies diversity, equity and inclusion through stated values, objectives and initiatives. This document should be the focus of our Town, not a cultural assessment. All management and directors have completed unconscious bias training and nearly all law enforcement personnel has completed implicit and cultural bias training. The town manager is DEI certified. We also just hired a Recruitment and Selection Coordinator, who is already DEI trained and will be DEI certified within a year. DEI is not something new to Fuquay-Varina. It’s been a priority in the past, and will continue to be a priority if I am elected Mayor.
My belief in the overall importance of public safety and the mayor’s role in keeping all our town residents safe is why I am proud to be endorsed by local Law Enforcement leaders like the Police Benevolent Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and former Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison.
9) Do you support the $18.5 million Parks and Recreation bond on the ballot that will primarily finance the development of the Community Center North? How should the town proceed with its development of the community center if the referendum is successful? Should the center include an active adult facility or other broadly inclusive resources for residents?
Yes. There has been a lot of community input on the Community Center North – surveys, advisory boards, experts in community center design, engineers, etc. I support the plan unanimously approved by the Board, which will include an active adult component, but will also be enjoyed by a broad audience. We have heard the active adult citizens speak of the need for a facility, but we also need room for our sports programs. This facility will meet both needs.
10) Do you support the $20 million Transportation bond on the ballot? What proportion of the bond money should go towards enhancing and building new roadways versus financing new bike and pedestrian infrastructure?
Yes. This money will be used to leverage opportunities for matching grants. We’ve proven that we have success with this strategy. The last $20 million bond in 2015 resulted in over $40 million worth of projects, due to supplemental grant funding. The new bond will be used to improve congested intersections, bike lanes and pedestrian paths. Connecting sidewalks and greenways should be a priority so that citizens have the options to bike or walk, rather than drive.
11) Fuquay-Varina 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 do believe the town made the right decision, considering vaccines are readily available. All Fuquay-Varina government buildings require masks to be worn indoors. I believe in the right for individual businesses to determine whether people are required to wear a mask. There is no CDC mandate, and the public can pick and choose where they do business. Navigating this pandemic has been difficult to say the least, given the ever-changing nature of COVID and the suggested protocols. The key has been to follow the science and make the best decisions we can with the most current information we have, while protecting the public and being mindful of every citizen’s constitutional rights. While not easy, I do think the town has done a good job in how we’ve dealt with this crisis.
Similarly, Wake County Public Schools have done what they think is best to protect our children, their families, our teachers and other school employees. None of this has been perfect, and I have real concerns about the long-term impact of kids being kept out of classrooms for long periods, but it looks like we are moving forward and getting things closer to “back to normal” which is good for everyone, especially our children.
12) In what ways should Fuquay-Varina work to promote economic development? What are your goals for Fuquay-Varina’s downtown and what does the town need to do to achieve those goals?
I support the Economic Development Plan implemented in 2014, which is available on the Tow’s website. This policy focuses on high-end retail recruitment, and I am pleased to say a major shopping center – Gold Leaf Crossing – will be breaking ground in 2022. If you invest in Fuquay-Varina, we want to invest in you. Citizens have constantly spoken to me about their desires for more shopping and restaurants, and this project will provide that. We also have a full-time Downtown Coordinator, who works to support small businesses in our two downtowns. The downtown areas are the heart of Fuquay-Varina – thriving breweries, shops and restaurants provide a welcoming atmosphere to our town. I support continued investment in downtown streetscapes, sidewalks and façade grant programs. I would also like to see more festivals and events in our downtown area.
13) If there is anything else you would like to address please do so here.
It has been a privilege serving our incredible town for the past 8 years as commissioner, and I would be honored to take the next step and lead Fuquay-Varina in the future as your mayor. I will humbly follow in the footsteps of Mayor Byrne and continue his legacy.
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