Name as it appears on the ballot: Ed Yerha
Party affiliation: Unaffiliated
Campaign website: EdYerha.com
Occupation & employer: Retired financial analyst, IBM and Lenovo
Years lived in Cary: 27
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 served Cary for more than two decades, as a volunteer and for nearly ten years on Town Council. I love our community, and I work hard to earn your vote and support, not just during campaign season but every day for all of Cary. Town Council elections are non-partisan, and I am an independent voice, not affiliated with any political party.
As an at-large Council member, I represent all the citizens of Cary and I have a proven record of steady, sensible leadership. Cary has sound finances, smart growth and the lowest tax rate in Wake County. We’re one of the nation’s safest cities and have been named the best place to live in America.
There is still a lot of work to be done. We need to do all we can to make housing more affordable. We need to continue to strengthen our environmental initiatives. We must maintain our outstanding record of public safety. And we need to be aware of and accommodate shifting population changes in our town.
2) Given the direction of Cary’s town government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
I’ve had the privilege and honor of serving on Cary Town Council for nearly ten years, working to establish Cary’s policies and direction, and I continue to believe that Cary is headed in the right direction. So do many others — Cary has received many accolades, including the best place to live in America, most successful city, best city for early retirement, best city for millennial home ownership, lowest crime rate and many more. Our finances are in the best shape they’ve ever been. People and businesses are moving to Cary. We’re a diverse, welcoming community.
3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.
I am committed to increasing Cary’s supply of affordable housing. Cary needs a robust mix of housing options, and we must ensure that people who choose to call Cary home – especially those who work in Cary – are able to find housing they can afford. I supported adoption of Cary’s new Housing Plan, and I will continue to support programs and policies to increase our stock of affordable housing. I’d like Cary pursue the use of Additional Dwelling Units where appropriate. We are strengthening our relationships with partner organizations to meet affordable housing needs, invigorating our rehabilitation programs for existing housing stock and pursuing land acquisition by the town for affordable housing. Fully funding this new plan is a priority. We have already designated $4 mill of ARPA funds to this end, with more funding to come.
Adapting to Changing Demographics
- Cary’s population is aging. Cary has the oldest population of any of North Carolina’s 14 largest municipalities. People who moved here years ago don’t want to leave — who can blame them? Cary’s millennial population is also increasing but seniors are outpacing them. I proposed, and Cary recently formed a Senior Advisory Board to learn how we can better serve this population (housing, transportation and even pickleball) and to learn how the Town can use the expertise and wisdom of seniors to benefit our community.
- Cary’s population is, happily, becoming more diverse. I strongly support the newly-formed Human Resources, Inclusion and Diversity Task Force made up of a brilliant group of Cary citizens.
- Cary’s population is shifting to the west. We need to ensure that services and amenities are keeping up with the need. Cary is breaking ground on two new parks west of Highway 55 on May 1, and an all-purpose community center is in the early planning stages.
Cary has an outstanding record in this area. We are blessed with one of the finest, most professional and caring public safety teams anywhere… police, fire and emergency response. But we must not rest on our laurels. We need to attract the best and equip them with state-of-the-art resources.
Public safety is the most important function of municipal government. It can literally be a matter of life and death.
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.
It’s hard to choose a single item. Some of the more recent accomplishments that I’m most proud of are keeping our community safe from COVID-19, cutting our property taxes to maintain the lowest tax rate in Wake County, breaking ground on the new Fenton development that will become one of Cary’s destinations and engaging the entire community in a year-long celebration of Cary’s 150th birthday.
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.
My experience includes:
- Cary Town Council At-Large, 2012 – present
- Cary Mayor Pro Tem, 2015- 2017
- Cary Planning and Zoning Board, 1998 – 2004; Chair 2000 – 2004
- Cary Sister Cities Commission, 2004 – 2010; Vice-Chair 2009 – 2010
- Cary Zoning Board of Adjustment, 2010 – 2012
- Town Center Area Plan Advisory Committee, 2000 – 2001
- Historic Preservation Master Plan Advisory Committee
- Board of Directors, Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel, 2000 – present; President 2010 – 2012
- Triangle J Council of Governments Center of the Region Enterprise Commission, 2012 – present
- Council Liaison to the Environmental Advisory Board, 2012 – 2014
- Council Liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission, 2014 -present
- Council Liaison to the Senior Advisory Board, 2021- present
- Council Liaison to the Cary 150 Task Force, 2018 – 2021
I am honored to be endorsed by Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, NC Representative Gale Adcock, former Town Council member and Wake County Commissioner Erv Portman, former Town Council member Marla Dorrel and several of Cary’s leading citizens, including four of Cary’s Hometown Spirit Award winners.
6) Given the rate of growth in Cary, 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?
I am a champion for balanced growth – infrastructure keeping up with growth; effective use of Cary’s dwindling supply of undeveloped land via open space preservation and high-quality development; redevelopment efforts where appropriate; and ensuring an attractive mix of commercial and residential uses. Cary has among the strictest tree buffer, stream buffer, streetscape and tree replacement ordinances of any community. When a rezoning or a development plan comes our way that includes a buffer or streetscape reduction or the loss of champion trees, it presents a red flag to me and I generally oppose such requests. I will continue to advocate for local control over growth-related issues such as buffers, tree protection and density. Local government should not be hindered by state legislation. No one knows more about what Cary needs than Cary citizens.
At the same time, I understand that sustainability requires action – lots of it. I support the town’s environmental initiatives and I’m always seeking greater opportunities. Cary’s sustainability accomplishments and initiatives include:
- Hired an Urban Forester and a new Re-generative Agriculture Manager
- I support the purchase of the South Cary Solar Farm
- I’m eager to implement the White Oak Creek Greenway Wetlands project, funded by a grant
- Purchased our first electric garbage truck and two Tesla police cruisers (19 more to follow soon)
- Installed anti-idle devices on fire trucks
- Planing for recently purchased 200 acres of open space in western Cary
- Continue and expand the My Tree Our Tree Program
- Develop a more robust Zero Food Waste/ Composting program
- Pursue ordinance changes to strengthen our commitment to the environment
- Implement a recently received federal grant for stormwater management
- Promote adaptive reuse of old buildings …a form of re-cycling!
- And more….
Environmental protection has been one of my top priorities throughout my service on Town Council. I’ve been liaison and advocate for our Environmental Advisory Board. I will continue to implement Cary’s existing Climate Action Plan and Strategic Energy Action Plan.
7) As with most places in the Triangle, Cary 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?
See answer to Question 3
8) How should town leaders work with the large organizations who are relocating to, or expanding or investing in Cary? What obligations, if any, should these businesses/companies/facilities have to the town?
We have welcomed many new businesses with quality, high-paying jobs to Cary. People and businesses want to move here because it’s a great place to live, work, play and do business. Because of that, we use economic incentives prudently to attract businesses. We expect businesses who locate or expand in Cary to be good corporate citizens, which includes doing their fair share to improve and expand the infrastructure that’s needed to accommodate them and to adhere to our standards for attractive, high-quality development.
9) In your view, how can Cary be safer and more accessible using different modes of transportation? What is your vision for public transit, pedestrian and bike safety?
I have always supported our Go! Cary bus service. We are continually looking for ways to improve service. I will work to establish a fixed bus route for western Cary.
I’m looking forward to the planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route through downtown Cary and the new Multi-Modal Transit Center to replace the existing Cary Depot. We just received a federal grant to help establish a Transit Maintenance Facility that will incorporate green technology and solar energy.
Cary’s greenway system is among the best anywhere and serves as a safe alternative form of transportation for pedestrians and bicycles. Cary is frequently named a Bicycle-Friendly community.
Pedestrian transportation includes something as simple as sidewalks. We have just allocated more money than ever before for new and improved sidewalks for all parts of town.
10) What are your goals for Cary’s downtown and what does the town need to do to achieve those goals?
I’m proud to say that Cary is achieving its downtown goals. More than 20 years ago, I served on the Town Center Area Plan advisory board to establish a plan for revitalizing our downtown. It took some time to get off the ground (literally), but it has surely taken off now, thanks to the will of the current Town Council. Downtown Cary is now a vibrant place with restaurants, breweries, many sorts of businesses, the Cary Arts Center, a farmers market and lots of public art. Downtown Cary is a busy place just about all the time.
The Downtown Cary Park phase 1 is complete and the park remains a popular place to gather. Phase 2 is underway and will transform the area into a destination, with all sorts of amenities for everyone to enjoy.
We are working to minimize this revitalization’s effect on Cary’s historic structures while also working to ensure that new construction is of the quality that enables it to become an historic treasure itself 50 years from now.
11) Cary residents love their parks and greenways. How should the town work to preserve, improve, or expand them?
Cary residents do indeed love our parks, recreation facilities and cultural resources. We strive to provide the best of these amenities, and we succeed: Cary received the Gold Award for Parks and Recreation, ranked #1 in the entire United States! Our greenway system is a model for the region.
So we need to continue on our path of excellence. In particular, I support expanded parks and greenways in western Cary.
12) If there is anything else you would like to address please do so here.
I have a demonstrated record of steady, proven leadership. As an at-large member of the Cary Town Council since 2012, I continue to work hard for all Cary citizens every day. I approach service on Town Council as a true public servant, not a politician.
Although individual council members can initiate action, it takes a majority of our seven-member council to make laws and establish policies. No one person can accomplish this on their own. It takes the ability to work with other members to achieve things that genuinely make a difference. That ability comes from earning their respect and trust.
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished during my tenure on the Cary Town Council and I ask for your vote on May 17 or during early voting.