Name: Christine Kelly
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Campaign Website: christineforhsmayor.com
Occupation & employer: Sr. Marketing Manager, SAS Institute Inc.
Years lived in Holly Springs: 29
1)In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch:
Why are you running:
As a 29-year resident of Holly Springs and a current town council member since 2017, I know the opportunities the town has before us. I’m excited to embrace the changes with the addition of new businesses and neighborhoods. I feel strongly that these opportunities will be enriched when we balance and support the needs of current residents. I have the knowledge, experience, and passion to lead our town into this next chapter.
Why should voters entrust you with this position?
My history as a resident and community advocate, and my current local government experience gives me a unique view into how to move the Mayoral position forward as our town grows in support of our residents. My 30 years work experience at a large local software company in many management and customer facing roles, brings the experience and knowledge needed when building effective public/private partnerships. And, as a wife and mother, I will bring the perspective that decisions are made, note just not for the immediate benefit, but for current and future generations of residents.
What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the town council do differently or better over the course of your term?
My philosophy for the Mayor’s position is to advocate for a quality of life in the community for all residents and businesses, with a focus on community, collaboration, and compassion.
My priority will be to leverage the experience I gathered on town council to approach the position with fresh perspective as this will the first new Mayor in 20 years. My efforts will focus on ensuring that the collaboration between council, staff, the community, and business partners is open, transparent, and collaborative.
2) Given the direction of Holly Springs government, would you say things are on the right course?
Yes, we are on the right track, but there is more work to do.
The things I believe we’ve done right include:
- Preserving our small town feel through the adoption of Tree Preservation and Historical Preservation ordinances. This work resulted is Holly Springs becoming a Tree City USA.
- Making decisions based on new and updated plans supporting the priority areas in our strategic plan. Prior to joining council in 2017, there were several plans which had not been updated in years. Now we have adopted a new Strategic Plan, a new Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Plan, a new Parks and Recreation and Greenway Master Plan, and others are in process for an updated Unified Development Ordinance and Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
- Infrastructure investments are a priority, and we are leveraging all public and private partnerships available to help address our needs. Our residents voted in support of a $40 Million Transportation Bond in 2018 and we have work has begun on several of the proposed projects.
- A newly adopted Affordable Housing Study which will help provide options for how we can ease the lack of housing affordability in our town.
If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
I’d advocate for more sustainability and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives. These are areas that we have seen some movement in the last 4 years, but we need to do a lot more work in these areas.
Some issues we are experiencing in our town such as traffic congestion or housing availability, can get some relief through innovative partnerships. These partnerships can be private, such as the new companies investing in our town who share similar goals, or public with aid from county, state, and federal funds. Our town has had success in such partnerships in the past and I will work to advocate for more.
3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.
1. Managing Smart Growth
Holly Springs is experiencing both residential and commercial growth at a rate we have never seen. To do this well, we will need to increase our staff, improve necessary infrastructure while protecting and preserving our unique qualities.
Our current efforts to update our key plans for Land Use, our development ordinances and having future developers adhere to these new plans will be key to our success.
2. Addressing Landfill Odor Issues in Holly Springs
It’s no secret that we are experiencing odor issues being reported by neighborhoods and businesses negatively due to local area landfills, one being the South Wake Landfill. I shared reports and data analysis I created using odor complaints dating back to 2016 with Wake County and GLF Environmental to show how our town has been negatively impacted. This work helped establish a series of monthly meetings with interested parties to discuss ways to reduce the odor complaints. We are seeing some progress in odor reduction and expect for this effort to continue with positive results.
3. Increased Transparency, Collaboration and Communications from the Mayor’s office
The Mayor and Council are there to serve our community. I believe we need to have an open-door policy and be accessible to residents. We also need to be out in the community to listen and learn from residents and businesses on an ongoing basis. Since this will be the first new Mayor in 20 years, I see this as a great opportunity to leverage multi-media platforms to increase two-way communications. More input from the community increases collaboration and provides an opportunity for more transparency.
3) What’s the best or most important thing the town council has done in the past year?
Our Council approved several key Economic Development deals with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies and a few months later, AMGEN which will result in over 1000 new great paying jobs in our community. These companies are making large investments which will help our town transition from a bedroom community to one with employment opportunities. These deals will change our tax base from 80/20% residential/business to 70/30%. Increasing our commercial tax base will help the town opening opportunities for funding future infrastructure needs and extending town services.
Alternatively, name a decision you believe the council got wrong or an issue you believe the town should have handled differently.
I believe we have an opportunity to work with the public in advance of town council meetings for them to know ways to engage and provide input for development projects near their homes. I can think of several meetings where I believe council made the right decision, however residents voiced frustrations after the meeting because they did not know of the opportunity to provide their input. As a town we are posting meeting announcements to meet all legal obligations, essentially doing what “we need to do.” However, following that process may result in missing communicating with those who fall outside the required notification area, but are still impacted. For example, Google Maps and Waze has resulted in more cars using neighborhood roads as a traffic cut-through. I’d like for the town to work on more ways to engage around a proposed development using more of “what we could do”. At the end of the day, most developers want to be good neighbors. This will help that achieve that goal.
5) What prior experience will make you an effective member of the town council and advocate of the issues listed above?
Serving on town council these last years have given me the opportunity to learn how the town operates, build key relationships with staff, and learn how town council works to serve our community.
With these skills, I can engage with residents and businesses to learn of issues with the town and hear of ideas for improvements. I have the business skills to know how to build and work effectively with teams to collaborate on finding solutions.
Please note any endorsements you have received that you consider significant.
I am proud of following endorsements because addressing the issues important to these groups will result in a better, healthier community.
6) Given the rate of growth in Holly Springs, how will you ensure that growth is well managed and enhances the town rather than detracts from it?
Our Vision Holly Springs Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2019, provides the roadmap on how our town can grow in a smart way, incorporating new building best practices and standards. This plan has created with input and participation from residents, businesses, and future investors in our town.
Where does density and height fit in in planning decisions, if it does?
Our Future Land Use Map and Character Areas in the Vision Holly Springs Comprehensive Plan discusses the recommendations for various character areas like Regional Centers, Downtown Village District and Mixed-Use Centers. Each of these have specific guidelines from building scale and massing, to open space and natural resource areas requirements. We are also updating our Unified Development Ordinances to align with our new character land use areas. This new UDO will open opportunities for more innovation in the types and mix of buildings that can be built in designated areas.
How do you intend to balance growth with sustainability?
As outlined in our updated UDO, our town will continue to enforce tree preservation, open space areas with new developments as well as encourage solar and electric vehicle charging stations. We are moving forward with adding ordinances and requirements within the boundaries allowed by our NC General Statutes.
7) As with most places in the Triangle, Holly Springs is grappling with issues related to affordable housing. How would you like to see the town approach affordability issues over the next few years?
Our town is embarking on a new Affordable Housing Study. This study will help determine how our town can work towards more affordable housing and housing affordability options. This is a needed study since our average house price in over $500,000 and we are seeing a lack of housing availability. Lack of affordable housing is impacting the ability of residents to live and retire in the same town.
While this study is ongoing, we continue to work with developers using innovative ways to encourage more housing affordability output. One success story this year is working with a developer who voluntarily designated 50 units as workforce housing in a new apartment complex. Another success is working with Wake County on a public/private economic development deal which included 128 affordable housing units to be managed by DHIC. We need to continue to encourage more of these opportunities with each development opportunity.
Should it promote apartment living, duplexes, and/or triplexes?
I can see all these options as viable to help create more affordable living units in our town. The study will help identify these types of opportunities.
Encourage density in single family housing?
Yes, our current zoning allows for a variety of homes in neighborhoods with different density to encourage a mix of housing. This study can help us determine more ways to encourage housing affordability options.
What do you believe the town is doing right?
So much has happened in since I’ve been elected on council since 2017 which I believe is heading the town in the right direction. The momentum started with the hiring of a new Town Manager and other key positions after several of our staff retired. Seeing the leadership of new staff members working with existing staff has helped our town be prepared for the growth we are experiencing. This new team has created a more agile, service-oriented organization, pushed for adoption of new critical software systems, and implemented departmental restructuring to help align the expertise in key teams.
Holly Springs is ranked the #1 safest city in North Carolina, and our Fire Department was awarded No 1 ISO Rating, making it a top 1% of fire departments nationally. I fully support all budgetary requests coming from our police and fire departments to make sure they have what they need to keep our community safe. Even with these recognitions, both our police and fire have continued their community outreach to ensure everyone feels safe in our town. There were lessons learned from the many community discussions occurring with the Black Lives Matter movement, and we listened. One outcome is that we are investing in body-worn cameras for all our police. To increase transparency, a new Police Transparency web portal was launched to show our community that our public safety teams are dedicated to serving all residents.
What could it do better?
With accelerating growth, comes stresses to our current infrastructure and town services.
Our town needs to make sure we continue to provide the services to our residents in an equitable way. We need to keep mindful of the areas of town that are lacking infrastructure and facilities and plan to address those deficiencies.
We have an opportunity to help our community be more connected, by providing programs that include the various diverse communities. Our Parks and Recreation department is one way to support more and different programs to reach underserved residents.
As a town, I believe we have a great opportunity to improve the types and ways we have for residents and businesses to communicate with town, and vice versa. One example if we are looking at a 311 system to allow an easy way for residents to engage for non-emergency requests. We have increased our communications around town projects, upcoming open houses, new board positions. This area can always grow, and I believe needs more resources to help enhance our web outreach and other communication methods.
8) What infrastructure needs does Holly Springs currently have?
Our new Comprehensive Transportation Plan has identified areas on need in our town to increase safety, accessibility and reduce congestion. The new plan will help prioritize the areas of needing most attention and we will look for ways to address these areas of need.
We recently approved funding for initiative to establish new water sources for future needs. Collaborating with other municipalities, this project is working on new future water sources to service us for decades to come. We are meeting our water needs now, but we are also being proactive for future growth.
Other programs for storm water, waste pickup, code enforcements are all being evaluated for cost savings and better service opportunities. We are experiencing the aging of infrastructure which after several decades may needs to be repair, upgraded or modernization. Our challenge is looking at innovated ways to fund priorities this work.
How should the city address these needs and pay for them?
Some areas of infrastructure needs, such as our storm water, have been underfunded in the past. In analysis, we are also seeing that we have been charging less for some fees than most other municipalities.
We are looking at ways to incrementally address the funding needs by implementing best practice approaches to fee schedules. We started with storm water fees last year and now looking at other areas for service improvements and cost savings and/or fee alignments to cover more costs.
Having more commercial investment in our town will also open avenues for paying for key infrastructure projects in the future.
Finally, we need to leverage the ability to have bonds, or work with government partners to help finance the bigger infrastructure needs for our town. The recent Transportation Bond is an example of that.
9) Holly Springs has funds left over from a 2018 transportation bond. How should that money be spent?
The Transportation Bond projects are well documented on the town site where it details the Bond-Funded Projects and Bond and Partner-Funded Projects.
We are currently working on several active projects using the first $20 Million issuance of the bond. The town is closely monitoring the list of projects and will take the growth and needs into considerations when looking at the issuance of the rest on the bonds in the future.
In your view, how can the town improve public transit and alleviate traffic?
Some of the bond projects were to create more grid street opportunities to elevate known congestion. The Holly Springs Road Widening Project was prioritized because of the need to increase capacity on that road with the upcoming 540 interchange coming to Holly Springs. We need to continue to work with NCDOT to request support for other know areas of congestion. As Mayor, I will continue to work hard to advocate for Holly Springs roads to get priority.
Our first public transit Go Triangle bus service started this October. While it’s exciting to have transit, the schedule and routes are limited. We need to evaluate how our town can improve the routes to increase ridership.
How can it improve infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians?
Future development will require the implementation of multimodal infrastructure based on where development is occurring as identified by our land use plan. Our updated Unified Development Ordinance provides guidelines for sidewalk and road width to support safer pedestrian and cycling activity. Our new Comprehensive Transportation Plan which is due to be adopted in the next months, with help to identify and prioritize the support for this type of infrastructure.
10) Holly Springs 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?
I publicly stated I supported a town mask-mandate however the others on council who voted in the majority, chose to focus on education of wearing masks instead. I believe the approach taken by Wake County to support mask-mandates was the right approach.
How do you feel Wake County and Wake School Board officials have handled the COVID-19 pandemic?
I believe Wake County and Wake School Board officials have had to make very difficult decisions during the Covid pandemic working with real time data and monitoring the impact to our local communities. I applaud them for engaging with the public to get input and try to share the latest information all to help residents stay safe. I visit the Covid-19 Information dashboard frequently and when I had questions, reach out to Wake County and Wake School Board officials and they always are quick to reply.
If you don’t think the pandemic was handled well, what should have been done differently?
Given the many unknowns about Covid, the changing safety guidelines, the impact to residents and businesses I appreciate how hard it was to keep our communities safe. There were times when it was difficult to know the latest information regarding the availability of vaccine in our area. Overall, I think the right decisions were made given the data available and our state and county did a good job.
11) In what ways should Holly Springs promote economic development? How should the town assist small business owners?
Partnerships with our local businesses is very important to our town and our economy. We have a very strong Economic Development team that helped procure the very 2 large deals this year. I was proud to play a part in the recent announcements of $2 billion dollar project of FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies bringing 775 jobs, and a few months later, AMGEN $550 Million manufacturing facility bringing another 335 jobs. These companies’ chose Holly Springs because of the town’s willingness to be a good business partner, access to a talented workforce, and partnerships in county/state government and local colleges.
In parallel, we also need to support and grow our small business communities. Through partnerships with local groups like the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce, and many business networking groups, we continue to promote and foster the success and growth of our local businesses.
12) Holly Springs residents love their parks and greenways. How should the town work to preserve, improve, or expand them?
We recently adopted a new Parks, Recreation, and Greenways master plan on March 2021 after extensive work by staff, outreach to the community and expertise from experts in the field.
This comprehensive plan is available on our website and it highlights the many ways we are listening and planning for the needs of our residents. This plan is driving the decisions on how best to utilize the remaining 8 $Million of the Parks and Recreation Bond money passed in 2011.
A few highlights:
- The recent Acquisition of the 55.9 acre Cass Holt Park on the west side of Holly Springs is a start to bringing parks closer to residents across all areas in town. The concepts for this park are currently being considered with resident input.
- Greenway trails were identified as the topmost priority for our town to invest in. There are several ongoing projects to help expand our greenways across our town and with other communities.
13) If there is anything else you would like to address please do so here.
Three mayors have served our town since 1983 and they provided great leadership and growth, leading the town from about 1,000 residents to over 42,000. However, our town has grown so quickly that new vision and directions are needed.
As our new staff has created opportunities to reorganize key services and focus on organizational excellence, I see the same opportunity with the Mayor’s position. I will start by looking at ways to increase community outreach to better support our residents and businesses. I see these changes ranging from adopting new proclamations in support of the many facets of our growing population, to looking at efficiencies in our Mayor office. Once area I’ve identified is to discontinue a $300 monthly travel allowance, saving our residents over $14,000 in the next term, since I do not believe that monthly stipend is necessary going forward. These are just some examples of opportunities I have identified, and I will work to identify more to better serve our residents.
I’m ready to be Holly Springs next Mayor and can hit the ground running on day one. I hope you will support me and vote for Christine Kelly for Mayor on November 2nd.
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