Former Siler City candidates apply for at-large commissioner seat

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SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners is set to appoint a new at-large commissioner Monday for Mayor Chip Price’s unexpired at-large seat, choosing from between two familiar applicants.

Lifelong Siler City residents Donald Matthews and James “Jay” Underwood — Matthews is an associate pastor at First Missionary Baptist Church, and Underwood a retired Siler City police officer — each sent letters of intention of the board to be considered for the at-large seat Price gave up, which expires in 2023, when he won the vacant mayor’s seat.

Both applicants were on the ballot in Siler City’s May 17 municipal elections; each finished second in their prospective races. Underwood lost to incumbent Cindy Bray in the race for her at-large seat, while Matthews finished second in the three-person mayor’s race.

In the application letters submitted to the board, Matthews and Underwood laid out reasons why they felt they’d be the best fit for the board. Matthews said as a life-long resident, he has been involved in his community and has taken part in various community service projects, including spearheading an effort to recognize historic Black-owned businesses along Birch Avenue. He said he wants to continue this service by becoming the next at-large commissioner.

“I have broad experience in creating and administering programs, board governance, committee membership, leadership, community involvement and Christian ministry,” Matthews wrote. 

Matthews, who’s 64, said those in the community can attest to the service he’s provided to the community. 

“If you are looking for an individual who has the ability to serve with excellence, execute with due diligence, develop transferable leadership skills, and keep the advancement and progress of our city at heart, I would appreciate an interview to discuss your goals and my qualifications,” Matthews wrote. “I am confident I have the qualifications to make an immediate contribution to Siler City’s current board of commissioners and the Siler City community at-large.”

Underwood’s letter shared a similar goal — he wants to continue to serve his community beyond what his previous position allowed him to do. The retired officer also pointed to his at-large commissioner campaign, where he lost to Bray by fewer than 50 votes. 

“I used my own personal funds to start my campaign, purchasing many needed items out of pocket,” Underwood, who’s 51, wrote. “I ran a clean and honest campaign.”

Underwood wants to become the next commissioner at-large for the same reason he joined the police department in 1993 — to serve his community in an effort to make it better.

“This position on the board would allow me to continue to give back to the town that has given me and my family so much,” wrote Underwood, who retired as a major in Siler City’s police department after a 29-year career there. “I want to make sure that our town is prosperous and a place that our future youth is proud of and wants to return to after completing their education.”

Commissioners decided during their Monday meeting to hold a special meeting to interview the two candidates — Donald Matthews and James “Jay” Underwood — for the vacant at-large commissioner seat at 6:30 p.m. on July 25 at Wren Memorial Library’s multipurpose room. The candidates will be allowed five minutes for opening statements, 30 minutes to answer questions from the board and five minutes for closing remarks. The meeting will be open to the public.

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com and on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.

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