Time’s Person of the Year is the person, a group, idea, or object that “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year”
So, who or what would that be in our community? We posed the question in our newsletter and on social media and got back hundreds of (very different!) responses. There were so many, in fact, that we’ve decided to award multiple prizes in different categories. These are very official results, and reflect the most votes received in each category.
Non-Human Winner: Hats off to the owl who steals hats
Runner’s Up: B3 Coffee Shop, Meals on Wheels of Orange County, NC Triangle DSA
There was a clear winner in this category: the owl who has stolen (at last count) three hats in Carrboro from runners in the Davie/Poplar area. The owl flew to victory ahead of “any mode of transit that’s not a car, “bicycles”, “B3 Coffee,” “Dingo, the CEO of Dingo Dog Brewing,” and “Charlie the cat on Elm Street.” Several people also suggested the blogblog as a winner – thank you, we’re tickled – but we’d much rather tip our hats to the owl who takes our hats. And we also want to shoutout the NC Triangle DSA, who put in long hours pounding the pavement to build a coalition of supporters for the Bolin Creek Greenway in Carrboro. Well done!
Back to the noctural thief: We attempted to reach the owl for an interview about this but were unsuccessful. We did, however, find that the town of Salem, Oregon has a similar issue and started selling owl attack warning signs, which raise money for their parks and playgrounds. We love this idea, and would like to suggest that the Town of Carrboro consider doing the same.
Journalism: Emmy Martin and Ethan E. Horton, The Daily Tar Heel
Runner’s Up: Aaron Keck, Sy Safransky
Martin and Horton lead the Daily Tar Heel and the Daily Tar Heel’s City and State Desk respectively. Collectively, they received dozens of votes for their nuanced and detailed coverage of the August 28th campus shooting, their work covering the School of Civic Life and Leadership, and the municipal elections.
We appreciate the Daily Tar Heel’s excellent coverage of town council and the elections, including their investigative deep dive into Friends of Bolin Creek and CHALT. Other nominees in this category included Aaron Keck – whose election night on-air coverage provides minute-by-minute detail of the races – and Sy Safranksy, the editor of The Sun for 50 years and a Chapel Hill treasure.
UNC: Kevin Guskiewicz and Erin Matson
Matson was featured this year in national publications ranging from ESPN to The Athletic, but we went local for our coverage: Caroline Wills’ excellent field hockey coverage for the Daily Tar Heel tracked Matson’s ups and ups – there weren’t any downs – this year, as she coached the team to its 11th national title and her fifth, becoming the youngest head coach to win an NCAA title in its history. (Seriously. Read Wills’ post-NCAA column.)
The outgoing Chancellor’s departure – which will become official in early January – has turned attention to a successor, and the way that the search will be conducted for the permanent position. (An interim – Lee Roberts – was announced earlier this month; he does not have experience in higher ed.) Guskiewicz, known as Kevin G in meme groups, was seen as a protector of faculty and staff – and did a nice job threading the needle in his work with the UNC governing boards, made up of political appointees hand-selected by the General Assembly. (After Guskiewicz’s resignation, Governor Roy Cooper sent out a memo calling for reform of the UNC System governance.)
Like many, we’re worried about the future of UNC. As the Coalition for Carolina points out, “Our shining Light on the Hill is no longer leading itself. Partisan politics and governance overreach has seeped into daily operations. A series of embarrassing incidents have made national headlines over the past few years. The shared governance model that has served us well for decades has been abandoned. And, political appointees have created disruption by inserting themselves into lower-level hiring decisions. There also appears to be a new disregard for faculty tenure determinations (the Nikole Hannah-Jones) debacle, and decisions about how Carolina operates are being influenced by political priorities.”
Chapel Hill: Pam Hemminger and the Planning Department
That sounds like a band!
Runners Up: Historic District residents, Scott Maitland for championing downtown, and the Department of Public Works
First, a number of people called out the excellent work of the Chapel Hill Planning Department over 2023. They are professional, know their stuff, and sometimes get harassed by town residents – which happened quite a bit in 2023. Kudos to the entire Planning Department for their work on Housing Choices.
Now to Mayor Pam. Mayor Pam decided to not run for reelection “kicked off a very spicy election season” as one of our readers put it. (And it did – things got weird!) We have appreciated Mayor Pam’s willingness to listen to all of her constituents, compromise, and make decisions after a lot of behind-the-scenes governing work. Her work on Food for Students has provided hundreds of thousands of meals for students in our community. During the pandemic, she was at the forefront of ensuring that students in our school district had wireless access and enough food to eat. We are appreciative of her votes on housing choices, and for championing the Complete Communities process. She led our community thoughtfully through the pandemic, and has been an active community volunteer for decades. We also appreciated her work at the state and regional level.
Carrboro: Damon Seils and Dave Otto, Elected History Makers
Runners Up: Carr Mill Mall’s towing, Heidi Perov, Catherine Lazorko, who “ Does an amazing job every year, but in 2023 led a truly inclusive public outreach effort for Carrboro’s Bolin Creek Greenway. She’s a top notch professional and the town is lucky to have her.”
A number of people wrote in about outgoing mayor Damon Seils, whose decade as mayor and councilmember was marked by a new comprehensive plan, a global pandemic, and championing the greenway. Through it all, Seils held drop-in office hours, ran efficient and friendly meetings (and helped lots of people who were nervous about making their first comment at a council meeting), and was known for championing public transit and Carrboro’s relationship with Chapel Hill Transit. (He also participated in what we consider to be one of our funniest interviews of the year.)
We also want to note history makers in Carrboro: Barbara Foushee, the first Black woman elected as Mayor and Catherine Fray, the first elected non-binary person in Carrboro and (we think) the first in North Carolina. (Thanks Rani Dasi!)
And others wrote in about Dave Otto, who died on December 4. Otto championed the greenway for decades – starting in the mid-70s – and spoke at many meetings about the importance of having accessible, safe transportation in town.
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.