Cindy Perry challenging incumbent Jim Nass to regain Pittsboro mayoral seat

Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Making high quality community journalism isn’t free — please consider supporting our journalism by subscribing to the News + Record today.

Unlimited Digital Access: $3.99/month

Print + Digital: $5.99/month

Posted

PITTSBORO — Pittsboro has only two contested races on the Nov. 2 ballot, but it’s the one for mayor which may give voters a double-take: it pits former Mayor Cindy Perry, who gave up the seat in 2019 to endorse the man she’s facing — incumbent Mayor Jim Nass.

Perry served two terms as mayor of Pittsboro but didn’t seek reelection in 2019, choosing instead to endorse Nass for the post. Nass ran unopposed and is seeking a second term while Perry looks to re-take the seat she held from 2015 to 2019.

The News + Record sat down with both candidates in an extended interview last Thursday. The full conversation can be accessed from the CN+R’s website (chathamnewsrecord.com) and Facebook page.

Meanwhile, here’s a brief look at the candidates and the primary issues in the race.

Cindy Perry

Perry is not an unfamiliar face to Pittsboro; she served as the mayor of the town from 2015 to 2019 before stepping down to work focus her time working with Second Bloom of Chatham, which provides support and resources for survivors of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

She said her main project of moving Second Bloom away from the courthouse circle was coming to a close when people in the community approached her about making a run at the office of mayor again.

“As the spring came, and my work on that board was coming close to an end, I thought to myself about what I could do and continue to help the town of Pittsboro,” she said. “There’s something about this town, the friendliness of it, the opportunities of it, that I just wanted to be a part of it again.”

Perry said during her terms as mayor, one of the main issues residents spoke to her about was about the lack communication between town staff and residents.

“There were many people in Pittsboro who were not getting returned phone calls, emails, any kind of communication,” she said. “We as a board, and I as Mayor, were frustrated too.”

Perry said at the end of her term, enthusiasm among staff was almost nonexistent compared to what is in town hall now.

“Personnel policies, having the privacy aspect that they have, would not allow me to talk about what happened towards the end of my term,” she said. “But I will tell you that there was not any enthusiasm for the continued relationship [for some town staff members, who now no longer work for the town].”

Since Perry’s administration, turnover on town staff has included the town manager position, now held by Chris Kennedy — who gets high marks from both Perry and Nass. With fresh faces in town hall, Perry said she believes the town is in a better place to get important work done.

“At a meeting, we need to be presented with the pros and cons, the haves and the have nots, the things that we could and should do, and Chris does that,” Perry said. “It’s to Jim’s credit that finally a vote was garnered under his leadership, and not only did the top position fall, but then Chris helped to clean house.”

Another issue Perry is campaigning on is regarding the water quality in Pittsboro.

Perry said that at the beginning of her administration, some within town administration did not want to admit how dire the situation with Pittsboro’s drinking water really was. She said she pushed the board to be more transparent about Pittsboro’s water and wastewater issues.

“The dichotomy between admitting a problem and charging for water which was questionable was just not anything that the town administration at that time wanted to face,” she said. “We pushed it forward and said, ‘We have got to be transparent; we have got to be clear.’”

Perry said water plant work proposed for Pittsboro is a step in the right direction, but people want more immediate action.

“There are a lot of people who have said to me in the course of the campaign, ‘I don’t want to hear about five years from now, when you’re going to put a new water plant on the west side of the Jordan lake; I want to know what you’re doing right now,’” Perry said. “I would say that the Water Quality Committee task force that we put in place in 2019 has given recommendations, which I think need to be followed.”

Perry is also concerned with the ongoing issue of affordable housing in Pittsboro, especially within the Chatham Park development. She said the developers involved in the Chatham Park project have “pushed the envelope” in regards to their proposal for affordable housing.

“I am not happy with the idea that they want the affordable housing to not be on their 7,200 acres,” she said. “That is plenty of room to have inclusive, incorporated housing which is affordable.”

Perry said there are other communities who have been able to incorporate affordable housing into their developments, and, according to her, Chatham Park is capable of including affordable housing in their development.

“Chatham Forest had units that you can’t tell from the outside which ones are affordable and which ones aren’t,” Perry said. “That is fully capable of being done in Chatham Park.”

Perry is also concerned about Chatham Park’s impact on long-time residents and businesses in Pittsboro. She said she wants to make sure all of the work being done in Pittsboro, not just Chatham Park, is a priority.

“There’s so many other things that are on the table,” Perry said “We can’t let Chatham Park outshine legacy Pittsboro and small businesses in town.”

Perry believes she is the best suited for the job for multiple reasons, but she believes her style of leadership sets her apart from the competition.

“I have my own leadership style,” she said. “I’m a member of the Quaker faith and one of the things that I believe in is just doing as much good as I can, in a gentle but diplomatic way, and so that’s really the reason I filed again.”

Jim Nass

Nass believes the mayor should be an important leader within the community and work to make sure the town’s administration benefits the quality of life for those in around Pittsboro.

“I think the mayor position in Pittsboro is really three different kinds of things,” he said. “I think the mayor is the representative of the town. The mayor is looked to for answers and the mayor is looked to for guidance and leadership.”

Nass’s first term has been far from typical. Shortly after taking office, the coronavirus pandemic struck. It impacted the way Nass thought his first term as mayor would start.

“I did one ribbon cutting, and I hadn’t done another ribbon cutting until a few weeks ago,” he said. “The normal things that the mayor can do to get out and represent the town and support all the fine things that are going on in town sort of went away for a period of time. I’m very glad that we’re kind of coming out of that right now.”

Part of the reason Nass decided to run again for the office of mayor was the amount of progress and growth made in Pittsboro over the last two years.

“I realized that we had made some fairly significant progress on some important things, such as finally getting the affordable housing ordinance, so that we can begin to implement that, and finally getting through the additional elements with Chatham Park and getting the logjam of our water and sewer issues in the state kind of resolved,” he said. “I really would like to see these things through and get them actually implemented and be enforced because I think they’re all important.”

One of the reasons Nass ran for mayor in the first place was to change what he saw was a “lack of morale” in town staff and administration.

Nass wanted to make a change in leadership within town management; he said Kennedy’s hiring as town manager accomplished that.

“We began the process of changing over some of the staff,” he said. “The commissioners agreed to provide some additional staff in key positions that were that was necessary.”

Now Nass faces a potential second term, which would include leading negotiations in regards to Pittsboro’s water woes and, like Perry addressed, creating more affordable housing in Chatham Park.

In regards to the water issue the town faces, Nass said it is key for town leadership to stay on track with the water treatment plant project and hold the people responsible for the water pollution accountable.

“We have put out on the street requests for attorneys that can help us when we examine the potential for lawsuits and where that goes,” he said. “For Pittsboro, what we have to do is stay on plan, do exactly what we’re doing and get these chemicals out of the water and adding the ultraviolet light to get rid of the dioxalate.”

Affordable housing is something Nass says is also of utmost importance to the Pittsboro community

“It’s a problem not just for Pittsboro; it’s a problem for the United States,” he said. “What we have to do is find a solution we think will work.”

What would a solution be in a Nass administration?

Nass said he and other town staff and elected officials have talked to developers who have built affordable housing units and have asked them: what works, and what doesn’t work? He said his board is almost ready to present and potentially approve an affordable housing plan of incentives in an upcoming meeting.

“We produced a set of things that we could do for someone who committed to building affordable housing that would ease the process and make them want to come here,” Nass said. “We are just about ready for the approval of the Pittsboro Affordable Housing plan with all of these things that are going to be available to these builders.”

Chatham Park is a part of this master plan, and they have not come to an agreement with the town yet on affordable housing requirements.

Nass said he hopes they will agree to make it a priority with this proposed plan he and commissioners have developed.

“All of the additional elements have been resolved, and there’s only one outstanding; that’s affordable housing,” he said. “We are not going to give in on this affordable housing.”

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

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here