Mel: Hello, hello! We’re excited to liveblog tonight’s town council meeting, which will appreciate outgoing council members and Mayor Pam, and deliver oaths of office to incoming town council members and Mayor Jess Anderson.

Three blogbloggers will be in attendance at Town Hall, along with some small children and (we’ve heard) possible cake. The events will start promptly at 7. We hope you join us. (The livestream link will be up here when the meeting starts.)

Mel: The meeting room is starting to fill up. We see former mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, County Commissioner Jamezetta Bedford, Judge Joal Hall Broun, and several newly electeds.

John: Things are being called to order. Odd they are not using the PA system.

Mel: They are now! Mayor Pam kicks things off. Mayor Pro Tem Stegman is joining us online.

Martin: In these meetings, incoming and outgoing council members give speeches, both marking the transition of power and allowing elected officials to speak a bit on what brought them to seek office.

Martin: Tonight marks an end to Pam Hemminger’s almost twenty years of public service, first on the school board, then on the county commission and, since 2015, as mayor of Chapel Hill. She’s the second-longest serving mayor in Chapel Hill’s history.

Martin: Council member Paris Miller-Foushee is paying tribute to outgoing council member Tai Huynh, the first Vietnamese-American public official elected in the state of North Carolina. She makes note of his work on affordable housing, police reform, and economic development.

Mel: Tai is jetlagged, having returned from Vietnam two days ago. He ends with the phrase “Like my belly button, I’m outtie.”

Mel: My kids are attending their first town council meeting. Hooray for civics! (They brought Minecraft books.)

Martin: Karen Stegman is paying tribute to Michael Parker, who served two terms on the town council. Parker has seen the rise and fall of CHALT as a local political organization, and was particularly adept at both navigating political realities and seizing opportunities when they came up. Stegman mentions Parker’s work on transit, transportation, and reforming land use in town.

Martin: It’s very easy to imagine an alternate universe where Parker, Huynh, Anderson, Hemminger, and Ryan were all leaving the town council. We’re glad there’s going to be at least some continuity with the batch up for reelection this past year. (Ryan was reelected and Anderson is now mayor.)

Mel: Michael Parker is now saying a lot of thank yous. Live and work for our values of affordable housing, affordable transit, things that have truly set Chapel Hill apart – not our architecture. He’s served with 17 different people on council.

Martin: Parker points to the fact that Chapel Hill had a better response to the Covid pandemic that almost anywhere. When government does something well people often don’t notice, particularly when it comes to addressing things you can’t see. Thanks town staff. Parker: “[M]y wish for the new mayor and new council is that each and every one of you has as much fun as I’ve had being on council.”

Martin: Jess Anderson, Mayor Hemminger’s successor, is reading the proclamation honoring Hemminger, mentioning her experience as a business owner combined with her commitment to social justice and environmental protection.

Martin: In the proclamation, Anderson mentions some of the things that were critical to her own campaign for mayor—complete communities and everywhere to everywhere greenways. She also mentions the many, many commissions and boards that Hemminger has served on. (And Hemminger’s mock council meetings for Chapel Hill third graders.)

Martin: Hemminger has also been a statewide leader in North Carolina, serving as chair of the Metro Mayors Coalition. Chapel Hill often punches above its weight in state politics, and Hemminger is no exception.

Martin: Hemminger begins her speech—”after eight years of being your mayor, this is the last time I’ll have to speak to you before the dais.” Says she’s made a difference as mayor on climate and affordable housing. Calls being mayor both time consuming and mind consuming, mentions the Covid pandemic.

Mel: Mayor Pam is getting teary. Thanking staff, Chris Blue, community partners, residents, pays special tribute to Jeanne Brown, her most trusted advisor. Thanks her family. Giving parting advice to council, notes that they have to work together to set a vision and achieve it.

Mel: Standing O for Mayor Pam.

Martin: Camille Berry moves to pass the resolutions of appreciation for outgoing council members. Paris Miller-Foushee seconds.

Mel: Jess Anderson’s family makes their way up to the podium. North Carolina District Court Judge Joal Hall Broun gives Jess her oath of office. We have a new mayor!

Martin: I love that Karen Stegman’s off-video Zoom photo — of her with Ramses–is showing on three screens above everyone’s head. (Stegman is attending remotely.)

Martin: Hemminger gives Anderson a hard hat, a pair of giant scissors, and a gavel before gaveling out the town council.

Mel: There’s a 10 minute recess and then the new town council will be sworn in.

John: The meeting is now being called back to order by the new mayor

Martin: State Senator Graig Meyer swears in Melissa McCullough to the Chapel Hill Town Council.

Martin: State Senator Graig Meyer also swears in Theodore Nollert. (Who brings up his entire campaign team with him!)

Mel: Amy Ryan is being sworn in by Judge Joal Broun.

Martin: Are these the new seating assignments? If so Melissa McCullough will now be on the far left,  a seat previously occupied by Adam Searing, who moved one seat over. Theodore Nollert is taking Camille Berry’s old seat, which is previously where Paris Miller-Foushee sat.

Mel: Next up is Elizabeth Sharp, who ran as part of Searing’s slate. She’s being sworn in by Judge Paul Trevor Sharp, retired.

Martin: Sharp will be on the far right, seating wise. She’s next to Nollert.

Mel: We might be the only people who obsess over where these people sit. LOL.

Martin: Council member Paris Miller-Foushee moves to appoint Amy Ryan as mayor pro tem. Camille Berry seconds. Unanimous. Also unanimous: council appointments. They’re also amending the council calendar.

Mel: Yay! 6pm meetings starting this spring — to keep people from staying up too late. This will be great for staff. Great move.

John: I wonder if there is any standing protocol regarding the seating position on the dais?

Mel: We’re still talking about the seating. LOL.

Mel: Anderson ends with a short speech. Very uplifting and optimistic – municipalities are facing climate crisis, housing crisis, and affordability crisis. We have an exciting new opportunity ahead of us – implementing complete communities. Becoming a model for communities in the South and beyond. We’ll grow that will make our town even better now and for future generations.  We have to collectively embrace change. And that includes changing how our government works- more informed, inclusive, collaborative process for governance. Making changes to how they engage the public with information – making it more participatory, more public input, and easily track progress.

Mel: (We plan to suggest some things to make the council more user friendly later this week.)

And we’re outtie, like Tai.

Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....