Pride month 2021 begins with an announcement that Carrboro may continue its tradition of barrier-breaking LGBTQ+ political representation: Carrboro Town Council member Damon Seils—one of the state’s few gay elected officials— announced today that he will run for mayor.
Seils, who is serving his third term on the town council, said his priorities as mayor will center around the same issues he has focused on since he was first elected in 2013. He says he wants to improve local transit services, develop an inclusive, comprehensive plan, and ensure that basic municipal services, such as public safety, are provided in ways that ensure racial and economic justice.
“A lot of the priorities that I’ve been emphasizing over the past several years on the town council have come to some points of decision and action,” Seils, a communications specialist in the Duke University School of Medicine, says. “And with Mayor Lavelle’s announcement last week that she won’t seek re-election this year, it seemed like the right opportunity for me to step into a new leadership role for the town.”
Seils says one such issue coming to a head is Carrboro Connects, the town’s first comprehensive plan. Residents can use the project’s website to provide input on the plan, which will determine influential aspects of life in Carrboro, including how the town uses land, designs transportation systems, and builds affordable housing. Officials will develop plan recommendations this year, Seils says, and these recommendations will be implemented over the next few years.
Before joining the town council, Seils accrued several years of experience in town and county government. He was twice elected chair of the Carrboro Planning Board, making recommendations to the council on development and land use policy. He also represented Carrboro as the chair of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, advising the county’s Board of Commissioners on social justice considerations, including fair housing, civil liberties, employment benefits, and marriage equality.
Seils coordinated with jurisdictions across the state to enact local nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ community members. If he is elected, Seils will be Carrboro’s third openly LGBTQ+ mayor. Current Mayor Lydia Lavelle is North Carolina’s first openly lesbian mayor. Carrboro also elected the state’s first openly gay mayor, Mike Nelson, in 1995.
Seils says his identity as a gay man influences the decisions he makes as a politician.
“It gives me some perspective on the importance of seeing how systems that we’re responsible for at the local and state and national levels—when it comes to providing services for people and allocating resources—if those systems are causing harm, or are not supporting people’s needs, then we have an opportunity and really a responsibility to transform those systems,” Seils told the INDY. “And that’s where I’m trying to focus a lot of my energy these days, finding opportunities for those of us in positions of power and privilege to transform systems that are not serving the needs of the people in our communities.”
Seils also serves the LGBTQ+ community via his volunteer work. He frequently volunteers for the North Carolina AIDS Action Network, and he received the organization’s Advocate of the Year Award in 2017. He was a longtime leader of the Duke LGBT Task Force, which works closely with current and former members of the Duke community to promote equality and inclusion on campus and in the health system.
Seils is the first person to announce his candidacy for mayor; candidates for local elections can officially file for positions starting July 2.
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