This is part one of a two part series looking at Carrboro’s Town Council candidates. This piece examines the backgrounds and experiences of Carrboro’s Town Council candidates. The next piece looks into their policy positions.

Carrboro is at a crossroads, and this year’s Town Council race will decide the direction of the town. (The mayoral race has one candidate, current Town Council member Barbara Foushee.)

Triangle Blog Blog’s volunteer writers have spent a lot of time listening to what the council candidates have been saying. We’ve watched every forum, listened to every radio interview, and read every answer that candidates have submitted (or not submitted) to questionnaires. We’ve read their websites and their social media posts.

Today, we are endorsing future mayor Barbara Foushee alongside the Better Together slate—incumbent Eliazar Posada, former Planning Board chair Catherine Fray, and former Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board Chair Jason Merrill. Broadly speaking, each candidate on this slate has committed to promoting climate resilience and racial equity, using the Carrboro Connects comprehensive plan as a guide. They will build on the efforts of outgoing Mayor Damon Seils and the current council to make Carrboro a more inclusive, thriving, and walkable community.

Barbara Foushee‘s commitment to Carrboro and service are intertwined: she has spent decades serving our community through her work on Town Council, advisory boards, and in community. Foushee’s focus on centering and empowering community will help lead Carrboro forward. Fray, Merrill, and Posada bring decades of experience to the table and a vision for Carrboro that centers equity, the environment, affordability, and accessibility. Posada, a renter like 58 percent of Carrboro residents, has championed ensuring that every community in Carrboro can access material in their native languages. Fray co-led the Carrboro Connects Comprehensive Plan, which was built on a foundation of race and equity and climate action. They have a deep understanding of housing, stormwater issues, and planning processes. Merrill brings years of business experience leading Back Alley Bikes and a commitment to ensuring that kids and adults can bike and walk safely to school, work and our downtown areas.

Their forum answers are thoughtful and nuanced, and their platform is centered around concrete, specific goals for Carrboro to continue to maintain the inclusive, welcoming values that this town holds.

On the other side, we have newcomers Stephanie Wade and April Mills. Both Mills and Wade have far less experience serving in municipal roles, which will matter for Carrboro as we enter an era with a new mayor, new Town Manager, and efforts to modernize our approach to staffing.

Wade and Mills have held joint meetups, frequently tag each other on social media, and have created digital and printed materials encouraging people to vote for both of them as a slate of two. (There are three seats open in Carrboro.)

Both Mills and Wade have been dismissive of affordable housing goals and the town’s approach to climate resiliency and racial equity, and both have been willing to misrepresent facts to paint our town government as far more untrustworthy than it is. Both Mills and Wade have a conservative history in past elections—Wade has supported Libertarians, and Mills has supported Republican and Libertarian candidates. That’s disturbing.

Ultimately, it’s clear that the two slates present a stark choice for Carrboro. We can continue to try and become a higher-performing town on issues that our community cares about, or we can elect conservative candidates misrepresenting their viewpoints in order to roll back much of the progress we’ve made.

This post details how we examined the candidates’ backgrounds and experiences, which shed light on how they might govern.

Party affiliation and voting history

Both Stephanie Wade and April Mills became Democrats in June 2023, a month before they declared their candidacies. Prior to that, Mills and Wade were both unaffiliated.

In 2022, Mills voted in the Republican primary. In 2020, she publicly backed Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian presidential candidate who wanted to ditch Social Security, opposed mask mandates, and ran on a platform of wanting to dismantle the Department of Education. (Jorgensen received 0.77% of the vote in Orange County in 2020.) Mills changed her Facebook profile picture to support Jorgensen. As of the date of the publication of this piece, this profile picture is still visible on Mills’ Facebook page.

April Mills changed her profile picture to support Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen.

Wade, too, voted for a Libertarian candidate in the 2012 primary.

In contrast, according to their North Carolina voting records, Posada, Fray, and Merrill have voted Democrat in each primary they’ve voted in.

Municipal voting record

Wade did not vote in the municipal elections in 2021, 2017, and 2015, voting only in 2019.  Mills voted in the past three municipal elections, but missed the 2015 election.

On the Better Together slate, Fray and Posada have voted in every municipal election cycle since moving to Orange County. Merrill did not vote in 2021 or 2017, but voted in 2019 and 2015.

Affordable housing forums and questionnaires

Affordable housing is a critical part of how we might approach the priorities our voters broadly agree on, and Mills and Wade are uniquely disengaged with local stakeholders trying to fill that gap.

Each year, the Affordable Housing Coalition, the consortium of all of the affordable housing organizations in both towns, sends every candidate running for elected office in Chapel Hill and Carrboro a list of questions related to housing.

Mills and Wade did not fill out the questionnaire.

You can see Fray, Merrill, and Posada’s answers here

There have been two forums related to affordable housing—one held on September 16 by the Landing Tenant Association and one held on September 21 by NEXT, CEF, IFC, and EMPOWERment.  Stephanie Wade did not attend either forum. April Mills attended the NEXT/CEF/IFC/EMPOWERment forum and skipped the tenant’s forum.

Fray attended both forums; Merrill and Posada attended the NEXT/CEF/IFC/EMPOWERment forum and skipped the tenant’s forum.

You can watch a video of the NEXT/CEF/IFC/Empowerment forum.

Service to town

Wade and Mills have never served on a town advisory board or task force. Mills currently serves on the Chamber of Commerce for Morrisville and leads the homeowner’s association in her neighborhood, Claremont. In early July, Mills announced on her website that she had “been serving the community for 10 years.” In early August, that copy changed to 20 years.

April Mills website changes
Mills changed website copy from serving the community for 10 years to serving the community for 20 years.

Posada served on the Carrboro Planning Board from 2020 until he became a council member in 2022. He served on the Chapel Hill Reimagine Community Safety Task Force (2020-21), the Carrboro Connects Task Force (2020-22), the Carrboro COVID-19 Mitigation Business Grant Review Committee (2021), the Criminal Justice Debt Relief Program Advisory Committee as its vice chair (2020-21); and the Carrboro Emergency Fund Review Committee (2020). He has also served on the NC Democratic Party’s state executive committee (2020-22) and on the Orange County Democratic Party’s executive committee (2019-22).

Fray has served on the Planning Board for 11 years, including time as Chair. Fray also chaired the Carrboro Connects Task Force.

Merrill served on the Town of Chapel Hill Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board for six years, including a two year term as Chair. He has long volunteered with Food Not Bombs and at the ReCyclery.

Don’t take our word for this. Read the questionnaires. Listen to the forums. Examine the NC Board of Elections website.

With two slates of candidates holding diametrically opposed positions, Carrboro’s future hangs in the balance. Will we continue to be a welcoming, accepting, and progressive community? Or will we decide a different path?

We encourage you to vote for Eliazar Posada, Jason Merrill, and Catherine Fray for Carrboro Town Council, and Barbara Foushee for mayor.

Data for this post comes from Zillow, the Orange County Board of Elections, the North Carolina Board of Elections, and transcripts of the forums mentioned.

Endorsement statements were researched and written by the Triangle Blog Blog board: Geoff Green, Martin Johnson, Melody Kramer, John Rees, and Stephen Whitlow. Kramer, a Carrboro resident, was the lead author on this post.

Our next post looks at how the candidates differ on policy. You can read it here.

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.