Name as it appears on the ballot: R. Keith Shackleford 

Age: 51

Party affiliation: Democrat

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer: Attorney, Warren, Shackleford & Thomas PLLC

Years lived in Wake Forest: 25

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?

Wake Forest is “so dear” to me for many reasons. Wake Forest has been home for my family for over a century. My grandmother was a small business owner for over three decades. I watched my family history demolished to make way for a wider road. I had a front row seat to the Wake Forest growth and development show. In the last 20 years, our population has exploded from 12,600 to almost 50,000. Our Wake Forest is not the small town I knew as a child. That town was still struggling to find its foothold some 20 years after the College left. Our Wake Forest enjoys a vibrancy, not experienced since the 1950s. We are a different town. We are 2021 small town that embraces its small-town heritage but has city-size problems. I have a deep affection and love for Wake Forest. I am running for town board because I want the best for our residents, our businesses, and Wake Forest.

2) Given the direction of Wake Forest government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?

I am concerned about the density of some of the upcoming developments and the impact on traffic and the environment. The last ten years of growth and expansion have been impressive, but we lack the infrastructure improvement to accommodate the significant densification we have experienced.

3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.

(1) The sprawling urbanization and deforestation of Wake Forest

(2) Affordable housing for our both local and remote workforce residents

(3) Balancing our town policies and plans with the needs and voices of our residents

For our traffic issues, we need to make our road and traffic control improvements sooner rather than later. One way to do that is for the Town to take on these projects. To do that, an increase in the budget for our roads is necessary. We should study how other municipalities successfully address these issues and find our best solution. For affordable housing, we must provide incentives to ensure our growth includes more affordable housing for a broader range of income levels. Both our local and remote resident workforce needs to be able to live and to purchase homes in Wake Forest. We must address the existing, lacking infrastructure with current and planned future developments/populations, etc.

4) What’s the best or most important thing the board of commissioners 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.

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.

Over the years, I had the opportunity to serve on numerous boards that have given me a diverse set of experiences upon which to draw. I served as a commissioner on the Housing Authority of Wake County for four terms. Affordable housing is a problem in our town. A true solution will have to address the issue from different angles, using our resources in new ways. As a trustee for Wake Technical Community College for eight years, I was involved with the growth of one of our County’s best assets. Our community college is an integral part of our education system and workforce development. I am currently serving my second term on the Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. My law firm has been a stalwart of support for small businesses through the Chamber and in our business relationships. My law practice has permitted me to help solve a variety of issues encountered by individual and business clients. I have represented clients in disputes with neighbors and before the Town Board on zoning issues. I was a member of the Steering Committee for the Wake Forest Community Plan in 2009. The Community Plan captured the collective vision of our town for years to come. It provided a road map for our town leadership. Finally, I was a member of the East End Community Association formed by the residents of the northeast section of Wake Forest to address concerns and issues, including affordable housing, high cost of electricity, community policing, streetscape, and activities for our children.

6) Given the rate of growth in Wake Forest, 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 will ensure growth is well managed and enhances the town by NOT approving every application “just because”. As a commissioner, I would be bound to follow the law, however, if the matter is not completely in line with the town vision I would do everything possible to inspire revisions, so it conforms with the town’s vision. Height and density are extremely relevant to planning decisions because they affect traffic, sustainability and our environment. I am committed to maintaining the small-town character of our town.

7) As with most places in the Triangle, Wake Forest 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?

Clearly, Wake Forest like other Wake County municipalities are experiencing an increase in the cost of housing. We need more housing that is affordable to a broader range of income levels. Promoting apartment living, duplexes and/or triplexes and encouraging density in single family housing would not likely address the issue and would compound other issues the town is already experiencing. We must encourage developers to build housing at lower price points and make sure that the targeted consumers are given the opportunity to purchase/rent those units. Our affordable housing stock with only increase with the cooperation of the homebuilding industry. We should consult with homebuilding trade associations to ideas and perhaps support for a project focused on affordable housing.

8) How do you feel the town handled the redevelopment of Wellington Park and displacement of residents living in the park’s mobile homes? How should the town in future ensure that residents aren’t displaced? What responsibility does the town have in assisting residents at risk of losing their homes?

The Wellington Park situation was heartbreaking. This situation showed that our residents are concerned about the welfare of others and expects our town government to protect those who can’t protect themselves. As heartbreaking as this whole scenario was, it was heartwarming to the see Wake Forest residents become passionate about helping the Wellington residents. The Board of Commissioners found a way to assist the Wellington residents.

9) How should Wake Forest grow its public transit system? How should it work to alleviate traffic congestion?

The key to growing the public transit system is to increase ridership. This means encouraging and to persuading residents to choose public transit over driving. If more drivers become riders that would reduce congestion. To increase ridership, the travel time needs to improve. Adding the second loop was a step in the right direction. The bus stop accommodations must continue to improve with appropriate seating and shelter.

10) What infrastructure needs does Wake Forest currently have? How should the city address these needs and pay for them? With our growth in population, our parks and recreation facilities need to grow as well. We have a great parks system as it stands but we still have miles of greenway to construct and connect. The western side of town has needs for sidewalks and greenways as well. My understanding is a bond referendum for Parks and Recreation is on the horizon and I will wholeheartedly support that initiative. We need more coordination with the NCDOT and to make sure they are familiar with our comprehensive transportation plans. We need to slow development in areas that already have heavy traffic congestion.

11) In what ways should Wake Forest work to promote economic development? What are your goals for Wake Forest’s downtown and what does the town need to do to achieve those goals?

The Town should continue to work with the Chamber of Commerce on attracting business and industry. I am not creating the wheel here. Experts in this area suggest many things. Create and maintain a dashboard showing critical, objective metrics, keeping it current and accessible to citizens, businesses, and investors. We need a consistent and unique selling point that is used by the Chamber, the Town and other local entities focused on economic development. We need to attract and develop a younger workforce to live and work in Wake Forest. The last one is my favorite. Elect and appoint leaders who put Wake Forest first. Our leaders must listen to new ideas and make doing business here possible. When appropriate we need to lower the obstacles to doing business in Wake Forest.

The Renaissance Plan is an important part of attracting customers and businesses downtown. The streetscape improvements completed over the last 17 years are a major factor. The lack of convenient parking is a growing issue as more businesses come downtown. We have several historic buildings along White Street that lend themselves to being restaurant. A major obstacle is the cost of compliance to the current building codes. Upfitting a historic building to become a restaurant is very expensive. The Town could offer some assistance through grants or low interest, short term loans to assist with the upfit. The more thriving restaurants and shops are downtown, the more our downtown will prosper and become an attraction. The Town should continue to staff a Downtown Development Manager and support Wake Forest Downtown, Inc. and other partners in economic development.

12) Wake Forest was one of several municipalities in joining Wake County in reimplementing 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?

Yes, this was the right decision. We owe a duty to those in our community who are at high risk for serious illness or complications arising from Covid-19. The overloading of our medical facilities and medical resources is a major concern. We should do everything we can to protect ourselves and others from the transmission of the virus. Wearing a mask is simply not too much to ask.

13) If there is anything else you would like to address please do so here.

Not only is Wake Forest where my home and business are located but my roots run deep here. Since returning to Wake Forest in 1996, I have been an active member of the community. I don’t think anyone is more invested in this community then me. I will always do what I think is best for our residents and our businesses. Not favoring one over the other, but by putting our common goals first. As our population grows, so do our businesses. Understanding that and being open-minded and objective are what make me the best candidate for Town Board. I will always weigh the pros and cons on an issue, develop my opinion and cast my vote based on what is best for Wake Forest.