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Chatham County Board of Commissioners District 1

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners is composed of five members elected for four-year, staggered terms. Each commissioner must reside in one of five districts, but is elected by countywide voters. The Board levies local taxes, develops the annual budget, and administers county governmental services such as public health oversight, property registration, building code enforcement, tourism, and public works, such utilities. Although the Board is the main policy making body for the County, the Sheriff, the Register of Deeds and the Soil and Water Conservation District Board are directly elected by the county voters. The Commissioners also play a key role in funding education at the K-12 and community college levels, even though education policies are determined by the Chatham County Board of Education and the Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees.

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    Karen Howard

  • Jay Stobbs

Biographical Information

What are the top 3 priorities the Chatham County Commission will face in the next term and how would you address them?

What is the most effective role the county commission can play in improving the local schools? What policies or funding will you suggest when elected?

Do you believe your county's social services are sufficient? If not, what 3 ways would you improve them?

What policies will you propose to improve the economy of your county?

What county environmental policies would you like to implement or change, if any, during your term?

Age (optional) 55
Position/philosophy statement I believe that strong local government is essential to the health and well-being of a community and that we are all deserving of dignity and respect.
The priorities of the Chatham BOC should be closely tied to the issues of COVID-19 and racial equity, and the decisions and choices that the BOC makes will either serve to assist and support Chatham residents or will perpetuate the negative impacts of these twin tragedies.

First, we will be tasked with addressing the long term economic and health consequences of the pandemic as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19. As Commissioner, I recognize that I am a cooperative partner to help get resources where they are needed most and I will continue to advocate for locally-owned, small businesses which are the underpinnings of a strong local economy.

Second, we will be guiding the creation of a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) which will bring together all the current land use ordinances while updating the options available for land uses across the county. The process will also give the community an opportunity to provide input. It is our responsibility to guide development in a way that reflects the community’s stated values of preserving the rural character of Chatham while allowing for responsible growth in designated areas of the county.

Thirdly, I have rededicated myself to the fight for social, economic and environmental justice. In Chatham, communities of color have been the most impacted by poverty, homelessness, joblessness and now the coronavirus. I commit to the goal of securing safe affordable housing, healthcare, internet and meaningful employment for all.
I believe that strong public schools are at the heart of a thriving community. The BOC should see itself as a collaborative partner in education along with Chatham County Schools and the Chatham County Community College. We share a common goal of ensuring access to a range of educational opportunities to meet the needs of a diverse and changing population of students in an evolving landscape of education tools. I strongly believe that our educators and professional staff are the experts in determining the right options and needs for our school system and as a former member of the Board of Education I know that with adequate funding we will be prepared to meet the needs of 21st century learners across the district. I currently serve as the liaison to the Board of Education and meet regularly with representatives from that board and county staff to ensure that we are staying abreast of the needs of our school system. Funding remains critical as we begin the return to school for the almost 9,000 students currently enrolled in Chatham County Schools. It will be essential that the BOC remain committed to addressing potential changes in CCS's needs to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. In addition, teacher remuneration has remained a critical issue as the General Assembly in NC has failed to uplift and support teachers. In Chatham we must continue to fund bonuses so that our schools are able to retain good teachers and so as to encourage others to go into this noble profession.
The current level of services in Chatham was sufficient to meet the level of needs pre-pandemic, however we are seeing an increase in demand for social services and I anticipate that this will continue as jobs are lost, families impacted by illness and an already strained mental healthcare infrastructure is further burdened. Access to service county social services relies on both a reliable public transit system and reliable internet, both of which continue to plague a geographically large county with limited transit options in many of the most affected communities. As a commissioner, I will continue to invest in local transit options such as Chatham Transit and will continue to support the purchase of county vehicles to enable staff to deliver food and services directly to their clients where appropriate. The current health crisis has increased the demand for mental health support and access to food and it is a compassionate and responsible use of county-owned vehicles to assist in efficient delivery of services across Chatham. In addition, a modern approach to mental health services in rural areas often relies on telemedicine which requires fast, consistent and affordable internet services. The County is working on several fronts to assist residents in this regards, including offering space to service providers on the recently funded Emergency Management cell towers that will finally cover all parts of the county and provide a ready location for interested providers.
I believe that a strong local economy depends on good public schools, a focus on our local strengths and opportunities and local policies that support small business owners and entrepreneurs. Chatham/s geographical location places us within easy access of excellent colleges and universities with competitive research programs and focus areas that highlight our regional strengths. Having multiple opportunities and pathways for success for Chatham County students means that we investing in students who are ready to meet the needs of today's industries and prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. I will continue to support dynamic programs like our early college which affords students the opportunity to get a two-year degree while in high school and the Chatham Promise which guarantees local students that meet certain criteria funding for two years of community college. It is also critical that we revisit our incentive policies. We should only reward larger companies that choose to locate here when they are (i) willing to meet our expectations for full-time employment (ii) provide access to company healthcare plans (iii) adopt environmental standards that protect our natural resources and (iv) are willing to be responsible cooperative partners with the county. We have witnessed the devastating impact of COVID-19 on meat-packing and processing plants and the suffering of residents who do not have compassionate options for healthcare and sick leave. Chatham deserves better.
During my second full term as County Commissioner I would like to see Chatham implement stronger policies to protect groundwater and create an incentive policy to encourage developers to maintain tree cover in residential development and limit disruption of streams and tributaries. As we come to understand the double threat of environmental degradation and global warming I am committed to ensuring that today's Chatham leadership guides the way toward policies that protect our natural environment for generations to come. Our inability to effectively regulate the chemicals that make their way into Chatham's waterways and the limitations of current policies to address the risks of emerging contaminants demands leadership that is not willing to acquiesce to the wants to industry and the kind of irresponsible approaches to environmental policies that have come out of the NC General Assembly over the last several years. As a parent and a former outsider who was lured by the beauty of Chatham and our trails, lakes, streams and green spaces, I am committed to protecting our precious environment. I am proud that under my leadership through the Chatham County Comprehensive Plan we have already begun to develop stronger environmental policies and will continue to do so. Business and industry are often singularly focussed on the bottom line. As a commissioner I have already demonstrated that my commitment is to the health and well-being of people.
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