Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County have pretty transparent ways of getting in touch with our elected officials, which you can do if you have an issue, want to bring something to their attention, or just thank them.

This post will walk you through how to effectively email our Town Councils (and explain why you should.)

The town of Chapel Hill has a group email address that permits anyone to send messages of concern, annoyance, or – even occasionally – heartfelt thank you’s to town electeds. (they probably don’t get enough of the latter!)

It is [email protected]

(For Carrboro, it’s [email protected].)

When you send a message to Chapel Hill’s mayor and council, several things happen.

  1. A town clerk forwards the message to all members of town council, the mayor, and the town manager – this part likely happens automatically.
  2. You receive a response from the clerk, acknowledging the receipt of the message and letting you know that they’ve forwarded to the mayor, council and anyone else on town staff that is relevant
  3. The email gets saved in a public viewable repository. This is the interesting part, because the inbox has become a political tool for groups who monitor the account and quickly arrange responses to any emails that counter their ongoing efforts to stop or slow down various development projects in our town.

How to write an email to council

Your email doesn’t have to be super long or long written. Lists or bullet points work. The idea is to say who you are, what you’re writing about, and what you think should happen in a friendly manner. Be sincere and respectful, the whole world will get to see what you send!

What not to email council about: quick repairs

We see a lot of people emailing council about repairs needed in their neighborhood, but the easiest way to get those fixed is through SeeClickFix (in Chapel Hill) and through the town website (in Carrboro.)

Chapel Hill: Park maintenance, traffic signs down, street or sidewalk repairs, and blocked storm drains can all be handled through SeeClickFix, so unless something isn’t getting done in a timely manner, there’s no need to email council about that.

Carrboro: Carrboro handles clean-up and street/sidewalk requests through a form on its website.

How to read the inbox

You can read the complete repository of previous emails here (user ‘guest’ and password should be already filled in, just click ‘Login’ to access)

One final thought

Take a look at some of the emails our elected officials receive. In fact, I suggest you read a few first before sending one off on your own.  While you are reading some of them, imagine you are the recipient, and how you might feel if you were getting this message. This can be helpful in your email getting across well, and with a well formed and thoughtful message

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

John Rees lives in Chapel Hill. His day job is an enterprise architect for a big IT company. He was, until very recently, a member of the Chapel Hill Planning Commission and former chair. He serves on...