Siler City needs to advocate for all of its residents


Elected officials and Siler City town staff took a crucial step in reaching out to residents by hosting a town hall at First Missionary Baptist Church in late February.

It was the first event of its kind — Mayor Chip Price, Town Manager Hank Raper, Community Development Director Jack Meadows, Commissioner Albert Alston and other officials meeting and opening the floor for residents to voice their concerns and questions.

And, oh boy, did they.

Around 50 residents gathered in the meeting room to discuss a wide variety of issues, ranging from affordable housing, the town’s sewer moratorium, cost of living and more. As residents would pose a question, the panel of officials would provide responses.

There was one common theme, however: those residents consistently said they felt left behind by the town, its staff and its elected officials.

I’m not here to argue the validity of that claim. But I do think Siler City’s governmental officials should make a practice of listening to ALL of its residents, particularly those who have traditionally been marginalized.

Most of the residents present at the town’s forum came from marginalized groups, particularly Siler City’s Black community. They feel they’ve been left to fend for themselves by the town, whether staff or officials realize that or not.

Throughout my time in Siler City as a reporter, as I’ve talked to people of color for stories, I often hear them say they feel neglected or that the town doesn’t care for all of the people who live here.

When working on the story about the new mural on Birch Avenue dedicated to Black business owners during the days of segregation, members of the Citizens in Action group said various processes in town made it difficult for marginalized groups to establish anything in town.

In fact, they say they faced intense questioning from some members of the board of commissioners when Citizens in Action went to apply for the permit they needed to commission their mural. Rev. Donald Matthews said some commissioners were concerned the mural would be “offensive,” as well as asking whether the group had gone through the town’s mural committee. When Matthews looked into it, the public arts body the board member mentioned had been disbanded years prior.

Something similar happened during a public hearing last month when a new soul food restaurant/catering business was pursuing a rezoning request. Commissioners did grant the rezoning request, but some spent half an hour grilling the business owners — who happen to be Black — about their proposed hours of operation, and how it would impact the people who live in the houses behind the proposed eatery.

However, during that same meeting, Wolfspeed came forward with a rezoning request for land it acquired for its proposed Siler City manufacturing site. Commissioners spent all of five minutes listening to the presentation and approving the rezoning request — no questions asked.

Actions speak louder than words: the double standard is there, and residents claim they can see it, clear as day.

Town officials say they want a better Siler City for all, but these actions and other decisions from the past say otherwise. With new and growing staff now in place, though, the town does seem to be moving in the right direction.

Raper, the town manager, has made crucial hires since his first day on the job and has made decisions to help the town prepare for the incoming growth, as well as rework town hall’s inner-workings to help address the needs of all residents.

Roads are being repaired while before they were neglected. The water billing software had been glitching for years and when it was revealed to be the case, town staff worked to get the issue fixed.

Steps like those are positive, but residents feel there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done for all residents to trust the town and its officials.

These community forums are the first step toward conversations and, hopefully, progress.

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


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