Name as it appears on the ballot: Cynthia (Cindy) Sinkez

Campaign website: 

Party Affiliation: Democratic

Profession or Occupation: In November, I resigned from my position as Administrative Assistant for a Raleigh Law Firm so that I could take care of my infant grandchild. Prior to working for Bowens & Averhart, PLLC, I worked for 2 minority-owned businesses in Cary, NC. I formerly worked in tech for a Fortune 500 transportation company.

Years lived in Wake County: 21

1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues facing Wake County? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?

A. TRANSIT AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING INFRASTRUCTURE: By taking care of the needs of the people who already call Wake County home through continual investments in public education, housing, community services, environmental spaces, and accessibility, we show the world that we have the infrastructure and capacity necessary to continue to grow and welcome both new residents and exciting opportunities. Investing in transit will ensure that the opportunities and benefits of growth are available to a wider population, further enhancing our county’s attractiveness to outside investors and businesses. Creating affordable, accessible, and reliable public transportation should be a concerted, multipronged effort. Envision transportation as a wheel, while education, affordable housing, and renewable energy are spokes. Everything ties into transit. Equitable, intentional affordable housing that is truly an investment in our community requires transit that’s accessible, reliable, clean, and useful so residents can get to work, or visit downtown and community cores including retail areas. Education, particularly higher education, needs transit that makes it easier for students or staff to attend classes, as well as for parents to attend school events.

I believe we need to be smart about transit. The intent should be to increase ridership. That doesn’t necessarily mean more stops but streamlined service that’s timely and consistent. We must create a system people actually want to use and one that doesn’t bring any stigma to its ridership. This means the system has to be useful. Bus Rapid Transit is unrolling in the county; this is a step in the right direction. I believe transit will ultimately be a combination of several different options. I want to investigate the availability of abandoned rail beds for potential point-to-point trolley service. The infrastructure won’t be as expensive as light rail and yet offers timely public transit.

Investing in transit is an important way to address environmental justice. Affordable, reliable transit is key to accessing healthy food, especially in food deserts. Covered bus shelters and sidewalks enhance neighborhood safety and walkability, making healthier residents. Transportation should include creative ways to reduce our carbon footprint while encouraging the use of renewable energy. I want to transition Wake’s fleet to electric vehicles.

B. FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION: I am committed to investing in public education and supporting both our teachers and students so that they can thrive in an inclusive, inspiring environment. The largest portion of Wake County’s budget is allocated to public education. The role of the County Commission in terms of public education has and should continue to be one that supports the needs of our public education system not just through budgetary funding, but also by being staunch advocates for our school system in the face of tightened restrictions and funding cutbacks from the NC Legislature. Accordingly, the real issue is that the General Assembly is not properly funding our schools. The county will need to continue supplementing the WCPSS budget. Wake County spends 57% of its budget on education. This funding will continue because education is a priority to the Wake County Commissioners. It’s also a funding priority for me. The General Assembly needs to step up and make education a priority.

NC’s Constitution states students have the right to a sound basic education. Today that education looks different from a few years ago. The pandemic made us acutely aware students need access to technology and broadband internet. There is a tremendous need for additional school nurses, psychologists, and counselors and to increase the base pay for teachers and support personnel. Teachers deserve to be treated with respect for the professionals they are. We don’t ask librarians to provide books for libraries; we shouldn’t ask science teachers to provide beakers. We must compensate teachers for their years of experience and additional degrees pursued. They work countless hours for pay that isn’t keeping pace with the growing economy and housing market in Wake County. Our children benefit the most learning from experienced, prepared, happy teachers. Our community is the long-term beneficiary of investments government makes into schools because a well-educated citizenry means a larger talent pool of employees, as well as a greater incentive for recruiting both great companies and other talented individuals to move into the area. Moreover, investing in our children is the moral thing to do.

I believe that the County Commissioners need to continue to do what they can to help erase the deficit that the State has not filled. This means I will have an open-door policy when it comes to meeting with and visiting our schools, administrators, staff, teachers, and parents. The best way to truly understand the needs of WCPSS is by interacting with the people who are a part of it. Our students, teachers, and support staff are worth the investment.

C. PROTECTING OUR ENVIRONMENT: Protecting the environment through parks, open space, and agricultural lands needs to continue to be a priority in the county. Ensuring clean air and drinking water is the bare minimum. The health of our residents is dependent upon development decisions being made now. I will make certain that all future projects make use of renewable energy, by being equipped for solar power on physical buildings, and make certain that the County follows the proposed goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030. My personal goal would be to meet this ultimate benchmark sooner. We only have one beautiful, precious Earth; there is no Planet B.

There are groups of people who are more vulnerable to the effects of pollution due to their proximity to toxins, which is a result of racism and redlining. Those who have been marginalized are often exposed to more toxins than other people. That said, I’m committed to environmental justice work in my role as a County Commissioner. We should be asking how every policy we plan to enact will affect not just the environment, but the people who live in these environments.

Climate change is real. We should all do our part to address it, and pledging not to accept money from fossil fuel executives or their PACs is one of the ways I’m standing up and fighting back on behalf of our environment.

2. With Wake County’s rapid growth comes challenges related to suburban sprawl, transportation, and affordable housing. What have been the county’s successes in managing this growth in recent years? What about its failures? What would you do differently?

Wake County continues to grow, being an economic force that attracts large corporations and is an incubator for small businesses alike. In recent years, the Raleigh-Durham area has consistently ranked the second-best place to live by US News & World Report as well as Livability. A record-breaking 173,000 new businesses were formed in Wake County in 2021. 96,000 of these new businesses were formed from January to the end of June. This was an 80% increase from the previous year. However, Wake County is suffering growing pains with regard to transit, affordable housing, and school funding. Our roadways are overcrowded, causing longer commute times to get to work. Our infrastructure needs continue to outpace the growing corporate population and we can’t continue to place housing needs on the backburner. Long commutes and high home prices have been sold to us as the consequences of being a desirable place to live, but they don’t have to be.

Wake County has an affordable housing problem. It will take working with the municipalities, nonprofits, and government agencies to address this issue. Transportation is going to be a key issue with regard to affordable housing. We will need to address both issues simultaneously in order to effect meaningful, lasting change.

First-time homeowners, the workforce, low-income earners, and the homeless all need housing that’s affordable to them. Some people believe that affordable housing means low apartment rents and the need to build higher for more density. Some people believe that affordable housing means that those employed as teachers, EMS, fire, and police should be able to live and work in the same area. Affordable housing to someone looking to purchase a home often means housing that costs under $300,000. I believe all of these are affordable housing needs. I don’t want to see any municipality in Wake County have the mantra of “you are good enough to work here but not good enough to live here.”

Due to laws passed by the Legislature, municipalities have fewer options to entice lower home costs in our area. Commissioners have added a lot of new affordable housing options. County and local governments must collaborate to address affordable housing within the confines of the laws. Municipalities need to work with builders and developers to ensure there are more affordable options available. Preserving existing affordable housing isn’t easy. Developers have purchased land in large swaths, tearing down existing homes, and replacing them with more expensive ones. They’ve acted similarly when it comes to purchasing farmland and redeveloping the area to build subdivisions throughout what used to be the rural portions of Wake. Rezoning laws can address some of this but if rebuilding fits the current zoning laws then municipalities need to address affordable housing elsewhere. As Commissioner, I’ll support current initiatives, like the Veterans Plan to address homelessness, and develop ways to expand affordable housing.

Former Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes had a brilliant idea when she ran for the Commission and it needs to be pursued. She proposed using the school system’s surplus property as a location to build affordable housing. This boosts diversity without the stigma and issues of bussing. Placing affordable housing near public schools helps balance the system by giving more students the opportunity to attend those schools and placing them in areas where transit is available. Today, Wake County, like so many others, is faced with an affordable housing deficit. Offering this land to nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity is a step in the right direction. We need to get the community involved in this process and support an affordable housing committee that would help us find creative solutions like this to address our issues.

Keeping in mind that many people either can not or are struggling to afford the current property taxes, I do support higher pay for our school teachers and personnel, as well as living wages for County Employees. The most powerful tool of a County Commissioner is the budget. Budgets should reflect a community’s values and priorities. What we fund matters. As budgets are a balancing act, it means Commissioners must balance the needs of the County with the costs to our residents for these services. Carteret County has the lowest property tax at .33% for $100 of valuation and Scotland County has the highest at 1% for $100 of valuation. Wake County is somewhere on the lower end at .6% for $100 of valuation. That makes living in Wake County a good value and a great steward of our resources. That said, the County should always prioritize equity in its taxing decisions and should ensure marginalized folks are not being displaced by increasing property tax values.

3. What should be the county’s role in addressing issues of economic inequality, such as gentrification and affordable housing? Do you believe the current board is doing enough to help its municipalities manage Wake County’s growth in order to prevent current residents from being priced out?

I believe that Wake County can do a better job of including diverse groups of individuals in the decision-making process. This means taking the issues to them and ensuring that they are part of the discussion. We must go to where the people are. I propose that we rotate around the County with a listening tour, giving people the opportunity to speak with us and work together to create a collaborative community.

The practice of redlining has disproportionately affected minorities and historically marginalized communities. The Holly Springs Landfill is a good example of this. When the landfill was planned and developed, the surrounding areas were generally populated by socioeconomically disadvantaged people in redlined communities. Today, with the population growth in Holly Springs and the surrounding areas, the landfill affects many people. There is an odor issue with the landfill that must be addressed. This is a quality of life issue, as well as an air and potentially a water quality issue. By taking a hard look at this landfill and discussing its future with the County Commissioners, I hope to address all of these issues together.

Perhaps more critically though, we should continue to examine wage and pay structures in Wake County and at the state level. I believe in equal pay for equal work, which is why I’ve long been an outspoken activist fighting for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. I also believe in paying folks a living wage, not just some arbitrary minimum wage that has not been adjusted in decades. The County passed policies regarding wages a couple of cycles ago. This is work that must be perpetually done to ensure folks aren’t being priced out of their homes.

Over the last year, billionaires got $5 trillion richer. It’s abhorrent. It’s unacceptable, especially as folks are homeless or houseless, our Legislature is debating whether or not to fund free student breakfast and lunch programs, and people cannot afford medical treatment for very real illnesses—and that’s on top of living through what is still a global pandemic.

A livable wage ensures we’re prioritizing equity and looking forward to a future where folks don’t have to struggle to afford the absolute bare minimum necessities just to survive. This goes hand in hand with ensuring there is an adequate supply of high-quality, affordable housing available; safe and walkable communities where neighborhoods and children are free to enjoy their surroundings; a robust, accessible, and reliable public transit system; a reformed justice system where we’ve reimagined policing and prioritized community wellness or services that ensure folks have better options available to them; as well as strong public schools and great job opportunities no matter what zip code someone calls home. We want Wake County residents to thrive, which isn’t possible if they are worried about where their next meal is coming from or if they can afford to go to the doctor for a checkup or if gentrification is going to mean they can’t continue to live in a place they’ve always called “home.”

Despite having formerly served as my HOA President, I chose not to seek the endorsement of the Realtors Association this cycle. I felt that their focus on increasing unfettered homebuilding capacity and lobbying for reduced restrictions on both buying 6 Cindy Sinkez Questionnaire and selling homes was not in alignment with my values. It’s time to put people before profits, especially the unchecked profits many realtors and home buying companies are experiencing right now while many of our county’s residents struggle to pay ever-increasing rents. Affordable housing and increased capacity in our urban cores are vitally important to seeing additional investments being made in a robust, accessible, affordable, and reliable public transit sector. I’m displeased by the perpetual displacement and gentrification of neighborhoods in order for realtors and private companies to line their pocketbooks.

Equity and inclusion are important facets of who I am. I know there is power and strength in building a more just and inclusive world.

4. The Wake County Public School system is asking for a $56 million budget increase next year to hire more employees and raise teacher pay. Given the General Assembly’s longstanding reticence to adequately fund public schools, does this seem like a reasonable request to you?

I believe that the current budget from the General Assembly falls woefully short of meeting the needs of our public school students. Students have the right to a sound education under the NC State Constitution and I believe that the state needs to do more to meet the Constitutional rights of our students.

I believe that teachers are rock stars and should be compensated like the professionals that they are. We should pay teachers for their years of experience and any additional degrees they have pursued. Our children are the ones who benefit the most learning from experienced, prepared, and happy teachers. Our community is also the long-term beneficiary of investments the government makes into a strong educational system because a well-educated citizenry means there is a larger talent pool of employees, as well as a greater incentive to use for recruiting both excellent companies and other talented individuals to move into the county. Moreover, investing in our children is the moral thing–the right thing–to do.

I also believe that more school nurses, social workers, and psychologists are needed on staff. I’ve heard of many teachers, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, who have experienced burnout as more demands are placed on them with little hope for relief. Teachers are experiencing overcrowded classrooms, a lack of available assistants, decreases in planning time, more restrictions being placed on their leave time or days off, and other burdens that reduce the energy and joy they once had to bring to their work. In addition to what the State Budget lacks, the Legislature attempting to impose additional restrictions around the Governor being able to institute future school mask mandates, and many Legislators refusing to acknowledge the danger that both teachers and children are still facing as a result of this virus puts our educators at an increased risk. Teachers and public school staff have been left with little to no recourse for addressing COVID spread in their classrooms or if they are unfortunate enough to end up with Long COVID as a result of lessened restrictions around masking and other mitigation measures. Teachers should not have to risk their lives in order to do their jobs. That is asking too much and should be seen as yet another indication of the disrespect some politicians have towards our educators.

Additionally, it is clear that there is a proven need for funding for capital improvements and I will support increased funding to assist in getting projects underway. Students and faculty need to know facilities are safe, clean, dependable environments that support learning and effective instruction. Children nor adults can be expected to focus if there isn’t heat in a classroom, there aren’t enough tables and chairs in a lunchroom, or libraries don’t have access to superior resources for student success. The pandemic has taught us the need to make sound investments in virtual instructional technology and broadband connectivity to ensure our students can succeed in any environment at any time. It’s critically important to ensure proper compliance with the ADA; no students or faculty should experience undue burdens in accessing facilities or technology or any other resources necessary for success.

In short, I do not believe that the current State budget provides adequate compensation to recruit and retain talented staff. Our Wake County Commissioners need to continue to do what they can to help erase the deficit that the State created while persisting to pressure Legislators to fulfill their obligation to our children.

5. Wake County has received $216 million from the American Rescue Plan and so far has allocated about half of those funds. Has the county done a good job investing that money into its COVID-19 response, healthcare, housing, public safety, and other community initiatives? What would you like to see the county do with the remainder of those funds?

To date, Wake County has used ARPA funding for the public health response to the pandemic. This includes testing and vaccinations. The County Commissioners issued a community survey and received almost 30,000 responses about how to prioritize the distribution of ARPA money. The Wake County Commissioners created a committee and used the survey responses as the guidelines for distributing ARPA funds. Most of the survey responses focused on public health, housing, and educational non-profits. About 20 million dollars of ARPA money was distributed to non-profits. There are 71 non-profits that are receiving funding from ARPA; this includes the Boys and Girls Clubs. About 10 million dollars was sent to Bridge To Home, which provides services to help people to get into permanent housing. I believe the intent of ARPA funding is to be used to enhance financial stability, cover temporary shortfalls, rebuild reserves, and maintain vital public health services.

I would like to see any additional ARPA funds go towards supporting mental health needs in Wake County. While the County can not own or build a mental health facility, it can use some of the funding for the purpose of supporting vital health services. Wake County will need to keep a significant amount of ARPA funding in reserves. Daycare is a tremendous issue for most families of young children. The cost of childcare often makes the determination of parents’ work schedules and opportunities. I would like to see ARPA funds go to assisting families with this costly burden. I can personally attest the pandemic is not over as I was recently diagnosed with a breakthrough case despite having been fully vaccinated, boosted, and continuing to wear my mask often. We must be prepared to respond in the future if needed.

Applying funds to existing programs that support our collective health and wellness, as well as helping the community, are the best uses of future ARPA funds. Bridge to Rent is another great program that should have ARPA funding; this assists our displaced renters. The program offers vouchers to renters and incentives to rental agencies. This is a great opportunity to assist our community in their time of need. Helping people is the best use of ARPA funds.

6. How would your experience―in politics or otherwise in your career―make you an asset to the county’s decision-making process? Be specific about how this experience would relate to your prospective office.

For the past 20 years, I have been working and volunteering in Wake County. I have a background working for and with major nonprofits, as well as in tech for a Fortune 500 transportation company, CSX, which makes me uniquely qualified to reimagine how public transit could advance in our county. I believe access to transit is connected to our way of life. Transportation affects our education system, carbon footprint, health, economy, and housing infrastructure. 

I’m also the President of and a percussionist in the Cary Town Band, as well as a highly engaged member of political and civic organizations in Wake County. I am the Past President of the Downtown Cary Children’s Museum and The Reserve HOA. I was twice nominated as Cary’s Hometown Spirit Award nominee (one nomination was from the committee itself), won Cary’s volunteer group of the year, served on Cary’s Citizen Issue Review Commission, and was a Institute of Political Leadership (IOPL) fellow. I ran for Cary Town Council in 2009 against an incumbent. I have been a member of the Wake County Democratic Party’s County Executive Committee, the North Carolina Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee, and the chair of my precinct for many years. I have taken a leave of absence from most of those roles so that I can run for Wake County Commissioner.

I have spent most of my adult life supporting public schools and fighting for our students and teachers so our children may receive the education they deserve. I’ve been PTSA President at Mills Park Middle School; school advisory council chair; Band Boosters President at Salem Middle School and Mills Park Middle School; Panther Creek High School Band Boosters fundraising chair, 3rd VP, and Panther Creek Invitational Committee member; and dubbed classroom mom to multiple classes at High Croft Drive Elementary School. I don’t shy away from any task. For example, I was asked to raise money so students could attend a band competition out of state. I wanted every eligible child to attend, so I created several ways to fund the trip. Students have since attended this competition for many years.

Another illustrative example of how hard I’ll fight for what is right and what is fair is when I organized around addressing crowded classrooms and student outcomes. Panther Creek High School was very overcrowded and my children were having class in the library with 3 other classes, or in the gym where they didn’t have access to the needed materials for their class, or in the auditorium with up to 5 classes at a time. The mobile classrooms were installed but the students were unable to use them because there was an issue with the Certificate of Occupancy. I stood in the halls at Meet the Teacher Night and handed every parent in attendance the phone number and email address of all the elected officials who had any say in getting the Certificate of Occupancy approved. These elected officials received so many emails that the server shut down and we overloaded their voicemails. It was a short time later that the permit was approved and the students were able to learn in classrooms that were set up for their needs. This is the exact same energy I will bring to the Wake County Board of Commissioners. My determination to right wrongs and assist the teachers, parents, and employees has never wavered. My determination to advocate for our students has never waned.

I have also spoken at WCPSS School Board Meetings around reassignment plans in Western Cary and in regards to year-round schools. Additionally, I have attended NCAE advocacy days at the NC General Assembly and Wear Red for Ed events.

I hope it’s clear that my experience is vast, but I want to tie it all together and extrapolate the soft skills that came from these very tangible experiences. As an IOPL Fellow, I learned about working with those whom you disagree with. As a graduate of the Cary School of Government (currently referred to as “Cary 101”), I learned the value of municipal government and what all it entails. As President of the PTSA, I learned the value of leadership and being a team player. My Presidency with Democratic Women of Wake County and my local-level political organizing work gave me a countywide view of government and introduced me to many of the policy makers, along with a network of community advocates. When I was appointed to the Cary Citizen Issue and Review Committee, I learned about how to connect constituents with the decision makers. As President of the Reserve Homeowners Association, I learned how to successfully negotiate contracts and assist my neighbors. All of these experiences combined make me the well-rounded candidate that I am so that I could truly understand the benefit of public-private partnerships which will assist me in stewarding collaborative opportunities for various projects to succeed in Wake County.

Most importantly though is my lived experience. I know what it is to struggle with familial healthcare challenges and disabilities. I am also a proud mother to 3 children who graduated from our public schools, a caregiver for my beloved new granddaughter, a loving wife, a champion for the Equal Rights Amendment, and an active volunteer with organizations that make our community stronger. Above all, I am a staunch believer in people.

7. North Carolina is a “Dillon Rule” state, meaning that the only powers municipal and county governments have are the ones granted to them by the legislature. Would you like to see this changed? How would you work with state legislators from Wake County, as well as mayors and council members from the city’s municipalities, to ensure that Wake County, its municipalities, and the state are on the same page regarding policies that affect residents of Wake?

In Dillion Rule jurisdictions, the state must grant or delegate authority to local governments in order for them to pass or adopt particular policies. This also means that the state can essentially tie the hands of municipalities in passing laws or local-level ordinances which better reflect the values of the citizens who live there. The state does this by invalidating any policies adopted locally that the state has not granted authority for a local level of government to pass. These preemption laws undermine the authority of local government. 

When Dorothea Dix closed, it left very few beds available to serve the mental health needs in Wake County. Dillion Rule tied the hands of Wake County Commissioners in response to this crisis. Wake County can not build a mental health facility due to state restrictions. Because of Dillion Rule, Wake County can not decide to increase the tax base by .01% and give that money directly to education. More Dillon Rule restrictions include the inability to initiate a homestead rule. Wake County’s unincorporated areas used to have the strictest building codes with regards to septic systems. These restrictions were in place to protect the environment. Now Wake County can not have septic rules that are more stringent than the state. Dillion Rule doesn’t allow local communities to govern in a manner that best fits the needs of its residents.

Cary had a reputation for being a tree-friendly town. Dillion Rule removed the local government’s ability to preserve its natural tree lines with regard to new construction. Local governments are arguably more connected to the needs of their unique community and therefore can pass policies that better reflect the values and needs of their citizens if not for this stringent policy imposed by the Legislature in what can essentially be deemed the ultimate power move.

I would work with Legislators to restore the ability for local municipalities to have more control over the services and needs their residents are requesting. Restricting local governments undermines democracy. When a community comes together to pass laws that are appropriate to them, the state government overturning those laws undermines the community and the utility of local governance. It is not hard to imagine how this can erode faith in politics and make voters apathetic in the long run if they rarely witness meaningful progress being made in their hometowns.

8. Is the county doing enough to protect, preserve, and maintain its natural resources, including parks, waterways, and green spaces?

I believe there is always room for improvement. Utilizing smart growth ideas, we can look to continue to build neighborhoods that are bikeable and walkable, pedestrian-friendly communities with access to public transit, healthy groceries, and work, along with mixed land use and a range of housing opportunities. Other concepts of environmentally responsible development and land use planning include farmland, open space, parks, and critical environmental areas. Preserving our tree canopy is one facet of this. Planting native trees and shrubs should be part of every development. We need to protect our waterways by being conscious of the effects of runoff containing pesticides and chemicals. Sidewalks make neighborhoods safer places to walk and help build a sense of community if folks can travel freely about. Covered bus shelters ensure folks are protected while waiting for rides. I believe all people have the right to live in an environment that’s healthy, walkable, accessible–especially for disabled folks, clean, and affordable.

The Wake County Commissioners have set a goal of 100% clean and renewable energy use by 2050. The Governor has signed a bill that supports this. I would make sure that all of the projects that come before the County Commissioners take a look at renewable energy as they are being planned. In order for us to make this goal a reality, we will need to keep an eye on ways to reduce emissions and include renewable energy along the way.

Protecting our drinking water and addressing climate change through the goal of 100% renewable energy use in the public areas of Wake County is a priority. Supporting our agricultural spaces by funding the work of the Wake Soil and Water Conservation District, which is now officially a county department, is also critical to ensuring we work with both public and private landowners to advance water quality and reduce runoff and erosion that affects the entire water supply for the county. Utilizing renewable energy, especially solar, and installing high-performance windows to reduce the need for artificial lighting while increasing energy efficiency are additional examples of environmentally responsible development. We should be looking at solar installations not just on new construction, but also in established open spaces, as well as on school grounds, parks, and public libraries.

At the end of March, President Biden issued a directive to strengthen the nation’s clean energy economy. He moved that the Defense Production Act could be utilized to secure American supply chains for batteries and other materials that go into both electric vehicles and storage of renewable energy sources. This should have happened sooner, but we must keep working towards progress. The IPCC report practically yells out the dire consequences we all will face if we do not immediately correct course.

Transportation is an important part of addressing environmental justice concerns. I want to fight for transitioning Wake County’s vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. A recent Lung Association report found that North Carolina could avoid 3,210 deaths, along with 79,100 asthma attacks, and $35.3 billion in public health spending over the next 30 years by transitioning to 100% electric vehicles. The same report found that the state would avoid over 387,000 lost workdays over the same period if we made the switch to EVs. While this is statewide data, it’s clear car-centric metros such as Wake County would benefit from reduced smog and pollution that comes with fossil fuel-powered vehicles, which would have the added benefit of enhancing quality of life for our community.

Additionally, I recently signed the “No Toxic Money” pledge, which reads: “I will take no money or gifts from Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, or their affiliates, including from their Political Action Committees (PAC), lobbyists, and executives. In addition, I support a moratorium on all of their new fossil fuel infrastructure projects.”

Climate change is real. We should all do our part to address it, and this is one of the ways I’m standing up and fighting back on behalf of our environment. Not only is taking climate action the moral thing to do, but I see it as my responsibility as a mother, a  grandmother, and as a candidate with a platform to use to speak up and speak out on an issue that affects each and every one of us.

As a County Commissioner, I will be our county’s first line of defense in standing up and speaking out on behalf of our quality of life. I will advocate for sound, environmentally friendly policies and work with our Legislative delegation to ensure laws are made that support moving us into a greener future. The time to act is now. Let’s not waste our moment.

9. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some points with voters.

While I believe that a well-rounded education includes learning to discuss topics from multiple points of view, what is currently happening with these attacks on curricular content—from so-called Critical Race Theory to the banning of LGBTQ+ inclusive library books—in our schools is a calculated, well-organized attempt at obscuring the truth and allowing a particular political agenda to dominate what our children learn. When I was in school, I joined the debate team. It was an enlightening experience on how to discuss topics and learn from others. History in its very essence is both good and bad. We must have our students learn about all of it in order for them to truly understand our past and our future. Not teaching about all of history does not mean that those events did not occur. Whitewashing history does no favors to anyone, let alone the minds of our future leaders of society.

I also want to be clear that it is a disservice to all students to purposely deny them the ability to think critically about very serious and meaningful moments throughout history, to derive and examine deeper contextual meanings from literature, to question the motivations of artists and poets alike, and to synthesize the symbolism inherent in the words of political and civic leaders. It is particularly troublesome that many of the discussions around tightly contriving and controlling curricular content intentionally seeks to limit the exposure of students to Black, Brown, and Indigenous history, as well as to LGBTQ+ history. Students–especially those from these historically marginalized groups–deserve to know their history, to be taught information relevant to their own lived experiences, and to see themselves reflected in the curriculum. How else can we inspire and inform our children if they never learn about anyone who looks like them? What does removing these diverse voices and experiences from the curriculum teach all of our children?

Additionally, I have refused to accept money from donors whose values do not align with my own; recently, I was on the phone with a neighbor during fundraising call time when he brought up his thoughts regarding Critical Race Theory and Trans children. I promptly informed him where I stood when it came to protecting trans kids at all costs and supporting Black lives as we do not restrict what teachers are allowed to teach in their classrooms, especially when they are educating our children about the truth of this country’s history.

10. What sets you apart from the other candidate(s) in this race?

I consider myself politically Progressive and I recently received the endorsement of the Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party in this race. I may not have always known I was a progressive, but as I’ve watched so-called political leaders and governments trample upon the rights of the already marginalized members of society in the past few years–when things should have been getting better and brighter in the world–it became crystal clear to me. Whether I’m attending Moral Monday Marches and listening to Rev. Barber rally our collective power to fight back against gerrymandering or attacks on Black and Brown bodies or on our LGBTQ+ friends or whether I’m marching with teachers to fight for living wages, I know where I stand. My dear friend, the late Ron Sanyal, used to say, “the sun rises equally for all.” I live this every day. I believe it to my very core. As I tell my infant granddaughter, “Love who you love, be true to yourself, and I will stand beside you when you need someone to walk with you.” I am here as a staunch ally for the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC community, for our immigrant friends, for the homeless and housing insecure, for women everywhere fighting for reproductive justice and passage of the ERA, for those needing access to healthcare and mental health treatment, and the working class. I have a voice. I have privilege. I’m going to use both for good.

It is my belief that everyone benefits from a more diverse and representative government. I would encourage members of diverse communities to apply to be on Boards and Commissions both countywide and in their municipalities. I will ensure that information is easily accessible and available about how to apply for those positions. I am also interested in establishing an internship program to support minority, LGBTQ+, disabled, and nontraditional students who wish to learn more about county government or political campaigns. I will continue to attend events and build relationships in the diverse and marginalized communities and neighborhoods throughout the county in order to expand my awareness of issues directly impacting folks and will seek advice in developing policy affecting the community from people who are a part of that community of interest. 

Equity and inclusion mean to me that we don’t just ask people to attend the dance, we ask them to dance and give them every tool necessary to ensure they can participate without facing undue burdens. We include them in the discussions that directly affect them. This can start with the appointments to our current boards and commissions, where there is an opportunity to put power back in the hands of people as we build more inclusive and diverse pipelines for community leadership. Finding workable, lasting solutions to our problems–both big and small–requires more than one perspective. Oftentimes in government, we see the same type of people holding power and imposing their perspective on everyone’s situation. What we all would benefit from is the lived experiences of folks who look and think differently than the people who have always been in power, but that requires empowering folks who have traditionally felt unwelcome in these spaces. That’s work I’m committed to doing because I think that’s a legacy that would endure and make far more of a difference in our community in the long run than a single policy change or line item in our budget could in one term.

Most importantly, I won’t just disappear from attending community events once I’m elected. I’ll keep showing up. I will continue to be an advocate for and stay involved with causes to encourage people to vote, volunteer, and get engaged with countywide events. I want to foster an atmosphere of collaboration between my office and the community in order to perpetuate a dialogue so that together, we may bring awareness to the unique issues faced by the most impacted communities when it comes to the policy and funding decisions made by the Board of Commissioners. There is power in organizing. There is power in our collective action. Simply put, my door will be open and I’ll always be ready to listen.

It is my belief that this campaign for Wake County Commissioner is about each of us growing and thriving together in a community that we’re proud to call home. I’m confident I’m the best candidate to help us invest in the promise of our collective whole through nurturing and tending to the parts that make us whole–from ensuring great public schools which support both our teachers and our students; to designing and funding public transit that is accessible and affordable and reliable; to enhancing veterans’ services; to protecting our environmental services and natural resources, including our special agricultural spaces. The use of a shade tree in my campaign logo has significance. There is this really beautiful quote attributed to a man named Nelson Henderson that embodies the type of leader I promise to be. He said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” This election is about more than just whatever we will accomplish together in one term; it’s about creating a legacy of thoughtful policy and progress that will endure for generations.