In Pittsboro, two incumbents, one newcomer square off for two commissioner seats

Posted 10/20/21

PITTSBORO — Pamela Baldwin and Michael Fiocco, long-time members of Pittsboro’s Board of Commissioners, are seeking re-election as commissioners — but they’re joined on November’s ballot by …

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In Pittsboro, two incumbents, one newcomer square off for two commissioner seats

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PITTSBORO — Pamela Baldwin and Michael Fiocco, long-time members of Pittsboro’s Board of Commissioners, are seeking re-election as commissioners — but they’re joined on November’s ballot by political newcomer James Vose, a 20-year county resident who’s lived in Pittsboro the last two years.

The top two vote-getters among the three will earn four-year seats on the board.

Here’s a rundown of what the candidates hope to contribute to the board.

Michael Fiocco

Fiocco has served as a commissioner for 12 years and is seeking his fourth term. The civil engineer is basing his campaign on the issues of growth and affordable housing.

He said while water quality is a major concern and a main priority for the town to address, growth and infrastructure are just as important to note — most notably, sewage capacity in town.

“I think other than the water quality issue, which we know is critical to the town, also critical to the town is sewer capacity and has been for some time,” Fiocco said in a recent candidate forum. “Without the right sewer capacity, there will not be growth in our town and without growth in our town, there will not be opportunities for new businesses, new residents.”

Fiocco said he believes increasing sewage capacity in the western side of town is not only the smarter thing to do, but would also serve as a way to support future development in west Pittsboro.

“I don’t think there is going to be a lack of interest in developing the west side of town,” he said. “The community college is there, and I think that is going to be a big generator of activity.”

Another major point of concern for Fiocco is affordable housing in Pittsboro. As a member of the county’s Affordable Housing Task Force, Fiocco said he was working with other town officials to try to find a solution that works for the town.

“We are recognizing that the private marketplace is not producing affordable housing,” he said. “One way we think that we can be successful is to get the community to act as an investor with these developers and to incentivize them in ways that they can find it in their business model to create affordable housing.”

One area regarding affordable housing Pittsboro residents are concerned about surround the Chatham Park development. Commissioners have made it mandatory for the the community’s developers to include an affordable housing component.

They have, but Fiocco feels Chatham Park could do better.

“I do believe the 5% [the minimum threshhold for affordable housing within the development] they are proposing is insufficient,” he said. “It is still far in excess of the 1% that they originally proposed, so I think we are heading in the right direction, but I think we will have to follow through and make it the quality affordable housing component we know it can be.”

Pamela Baldwin

Baldwin has served as a commissioner since 2005. She said she wants to continue the work she has started as a board member.

“This is really an open government, and as a commissioner, I certainly believe that is always what we need to do,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin is also campaigning on the issue of affordable housing, which is not an issue exclusive to Pittsboro. She serves with Fiocco on the affordable housing group, and she also said the affordable housing package proposed by Chatham Park is not enough.

“We’ve looked at tax incentives, we looked at other means of attempting to obtain affordable housing, we are working with developers and we are looking at more incentives as well,” Baldwin said. “We will be listening to our citizens, as well as our town manager, and our fellow commissioners and mayor as to how to update and correct any concerns.”

The affordable housing component of development in Pittsboro will not be limited to one area, according to Baldwin. She wants to make sure affordable housing is available throughout the various developments in town, not just in one spot.

Another important issue for Baldwin is bringing in jobs and improving economic development in Pittsboro. She said she wants to collaborate with local schools and the community college to better prepare students for their careers.

“We need good-paying jobs,” she said. “The way to achieve that is we need to work with the high school, in terms of their curriculum to see in what direction they are going so they can send students out prepared.”

Baldwin believes the town should look at what neighboring universities are doing with their curriculum and implement some of the materials at the community college.

“The community college is a great resource in reference to providing learning to our students,” she said. “We have UNC and all of these universities around, so we can certainly go to UNC, look at their curriculum, go to North Carolina A&T, look at what curriculum they have. We need to actually bring things like that to the Town of Pittsboro so that our children will be willing to come back and live in Pittsboro so they can have jobs and opportunities here.”

James Vose

Vose, seeking office for the first time, has lived in Chatham County for 20 years, but he has lived in Pittsboro specifically for two years. He wants to bring a fresh face and voice to the town of Pittsboro.

“I’ve felt stagnant for kind of a while now, but I certainly don’t feel stagnant right now,” he said. “Just all of those things coming into place play at the same time told me there’s no reason for me not to step up and try.”

Vose’s main concerns in Pittsboro surround the quality of the drinking water, as well as the growth surrounding Pittsboro and Chatham Park.

The newcomer said he believes the water quality issue should be the first priority of the commissioners and the town.

“When it comes to this subject of water, we all talk about it, but I don’t see any new ideas,” Vose said. “I think that calling people out by name and just challenging them to do better, especially on election years, I think that might be a big part of the solution, but I think that takes energy.”

When it comes to the large number of people expected to move into Pittsboro in the coming years, Vose feels there is a way to make sure everyone is happy — including long-time residents.

“I’m glad to see that their property values are improving, but a lot of people here live on a fixed income,” he said. “I don’t think they should bear the burden, the upfront burden of increased costs and infrastructure when it’s directly because of development.”

Vose may be new to the Pittsboro political scene, but he said he believes he has the energy and the ability to take one of the open seats.

“I’m running against two incumbents, multi-term incumbents, and I don’t see a lot of energy — I see experience, and I don’t see energy or inclusion,” he said. “When I go on and talk to people, I’m the only one that has, from their words, not mine, I think we need more of an emphasis on inclusion.”

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com.

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