NEW SILER CITY MAYOR

Price sees prosperity, resilience for town

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SILER CITY’S NEW MAYOR

SILER CITY — The town’s newly elected mayor is certainly a familiar face.

Thomas “Chip” Price, 66, and a lifelong resident of Siler City, takes office June 6 after serving 11 years as an at-large commissioner. He fills the seat vacated when former Mayor John Grimes died in office back on Oct. 20, 2020, and says he’s bringing a deep love for the town and its people to his new post.

“I feel blessed that I have been given this opportunity,” Price said.

Price will be sworn in as mayor at Monday’s commissioners meeting. The board decided after Grimes’ death not to appoint someone to the seat immediately, so as he assumes his new role, Price says he can’t help but look back on the changes in Siler City since he first took office.

“You can’t find a house for sale in Siler City right now, but back when I was first on the board, you couldn’t find anybody who wanted to buy a house here,” he said. “We (the town) were spending more money than we took in every year, and we corrected that.”

Price said he wanted to ensure the town didn’t go backward in its progress, which propelled him to seek the position.

“I don’t know that I really ever had a burning desire to want to be mayor until probably a year and a half ago,” Price said. “All the hard work that the board and all individuals in town had made to get to this point, I just didn’t want to see that go back.”

In seeking the mayorship, he faced long-time resident Don Matthews and newcomer Nick Gallardo — one of the four “Unity 2022” candidates, each of whom finished last in their respective races — for Siler City’s highest elected office. The nonpartisan election was part of the May 17 primary, which had been rescheduled from last fall because of the delay in Census data and redistricting legal proceedings. Price won 52.3% of the 826 votes cast in the mayoral race, with Matthews receiving 35.2% and Gallardo with 11.7%.

Price’s professional career has seen him work in manufacturing for Boling Chair Company, as a manager for Southern States Cooperative and in logistical work at Atlantic Power Solutions.

Joining him on the board will be other winners in Siler City’s commissioner board races, including incumbents Cindy Bray and Lewis Fadely, along with newcomer Albert Alston. All commissioner races were contested except for Commissioner Norma Boone, who won reelection to her unexpired seat.

What Price envisions now is fulfilling goals he has for the town — economic growth and a better quality of life for current residents.

“We’re ready now to start growing,” Price said. “We’re ready to start recruiting different businesses here, and things of that nature … I really just want to make sure that we capitalize on the progress we’ve already made, carry it on into the future and do the things that will benefit the citizens.”

One of the things Price wants to accomplish during his first term as mayor is to help finally bring a manufacturing business to the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing site (CAM) in town, which would bring major jobs and investment.

“There’s just way too much activity and interest in that,” he said. “It’s too good of a site for somebody to not have a major interest in and locate some type of manufacturing facility here.”

Price said he believes a major manufacturer moving into Siler City may come sooner than people think.

“I don’t think it’s like years out in the future — I think it’s somewhere close by,” he said.

Price is motivated to also ensure the young people in Siler City will have a place to work once they are ready to find full-time work. When he thinks about the future of youth in Siler City, he wants to ensure they have jobs at home and wants to start their own families in Siler City.

“The folks that live here, the young people that live here, will have an opportunity,” Price said. “They’ll have an opportunity to have a place to live and work and make a decent wage so they can afford to live and buy a house, do whatever they want to be able to afford to do that, and not have to go off to Greensboro, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, all these other places.”

Another important issue Price wants to address during his first term as mayor is to create more affordable housing options for Siler City residents. Wallick Communities, an Ohio-based affordable housing developer, is set to build 72 housing units behind Chatham Hospital for households earning 60% of the Area Median Income and below, but Price said the community will need more options as the county continues to grow.

“The median household income for Chatham County is somewhere around $70,000, but if you divide the county into east and west along (N.C.) 87, the average yearly household income for the western half of that, it’s only right at $30,000,” Price said.

Price said he believes bringing in new businesses will help to raise the wages of residents and bring new people to town, increasing the chances for developing affordable housing and creating more equitable living conditions.

“A rising tide floats all boats,” Price said. “When we get a manufacturing facility, we got to have some more affordable housing for people. We got to have places for them to live, so all those things are sort of tied together.”

Price said he was excited to work with the board at a different capacity.

“We’re already used to working with each other, and we sort of know where everybody’s coming from,” Price said. “We all have different ideas, and they’re not all the same. But we bring those ideas, and in the end, we come to a consensus or conclusion, and vote on it.”

Siler City is ready for an era of growth, security and prosperity, according to Price, and he is ready to get to work on behalf of the town’s citizens. Residents know what they’re getting with Price, he said, and he hopes his tenure will help SIler City blossom.

“I’ve lived here 66 years, and everybody knows me — good, bad, indifferent,” Price said. “We have positioned ourselves now to be able to start capitalizing on the things we have changed and put into place.”

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

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