Gary Dean Simpson | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Gary Dean Simpson

Candidate for Pittsboro Town Board


Name as it appears on the ballot: Gary Dean Simpson
Full legal name, if different: same
Date of birth: July 13, 1944
Home address: 82 Cynthia Lane Pittsboro, NC 27312
Mailing address, if different from home: Same
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Administrator – Fearrington Homeowners Association/CAS, Inc.
Home phone: 919-542-5628
Work phone: 919-542-1603
Cell phone: 919-210-4978

(Please click on this link: to access a digital photo as well as find links to an N&O questionnaire and a public hearing address on a request to rezone industrial land for a commercial development: “Pittsboro Place.”)

1. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.

For a quarter century I served as a Pastor in a variety of parish and specialized ministries. Approximately half that career was spent developing a successful and respected community based not-for-profit outreach ministry with multiple programs serving a wide variety of human needs. I twice earned the community’s “Citizen of the Year” award during my twelve years of service as the organization’s Executive Director.

As a citizen of Chatham County I have furthered the cause for affordable housing by working for Habitat for Humanity managing a retail resale store prior to my current administrator position with Fearrington Homeowners Association. My greatest pleasure came in serving for four years on the Board of Directors of Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities (CCEC), a grass roots, not-for-profit citizens’ action organization dedicated to empowering citizens to enhance Chatham’s future.

2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

My “political philosophy” is a reflection of my understanding of Christian theology and studies in the arts and humanities. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree from a liberal arts state university, and a Master of Divinity degree from a Lutheran Theological Seminary.

I understand my life and the world in which I live to be a gift granted to me to enjoy, protect and preserve. In grateful response to a gracious power beyond my own, I gladly seek to manage these resources and gifts as a wise and faithful steward for the benefit of all living things.

From this faith perspective, I understand people’s shortcomings and the need for forgiveness, grace and hope. I believe in the potential of every person to change, grow in grace and move beyond selfishness to work and sacrifice for the welfare of the greater community.

When I was asked to put my beliefs and principles into action by like-minded neighbors and join a slate of candidates for the Pittsboro Town Board, I responded to the call because each candidate on the team shared my desire to rebuild a government that would be responsive to an informed, visionary, proactive citizenry that wished to preserve the best of Pittsboro’s historic small town character in the face of rampant uncontrolled development, while moving it toward a sustainable 21st century community with quality jobs in local small businesses and high tech green industries.

I look forward to the challenge of empowering and working with fellow citizens to take charge of and proactively plan for our future from the grass roots up, rather than merely reacting to the will of outside development interests driven by the profit motive.

3. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

How about this principle: Protection, preservation and conservation of natural resources of land, water and air always trumps the quest for individual gain (wealth), mass consumption and personal convenience.

4. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

Given such a mission, is it any wonder I laud and applaud the Indy?

Referring back to my political philosophy, I seek to foster a system of government built on a level playing field that represents and empowers all the people to the end that justice and equality are served and honest community is built to enhance the quality of life for all. A community that allows the rampant growth of “McMansions” without advocating for a substantive increase in well planned affordable and sustainable housing is not furthering true community. I’m for true community. Likewise, a town that allows for the proliferation of low wage dead end retail jobs through commercial sprawl rather than focusing on the marriage of educational and economic opportunities to enhance everyone’s quality of life is perpetuating a system where the well to do maintain their quality of life off the backs of their poorer neighbors. I want to change that system.

5. Do you support Chatham County’s proposed land-transfer tax? Why or why not?

The .04% Land Transfer Tax as offered by the state legislature to Chatham County in place of the 1% that was sought has no direct impact on the Town of Pittsboro coffers, and, therefore, is a non issue for this municipal election.

In principle, I favor taxation proposals that provide citizens with choices between what may be seen by some as the “lesser of two evils.” Where taxes are unavoidable, it is to the benefit of every citizen to be given options to decide upon a tax that is the most fair and equitable for all.

6. Residential and commercial growth will change Pittsboro’s landscape and residents’ way of life drastically over the next several decades. What are the pros and cons of projects like Pittsboro Place and River Oaks coming to town (or not)? Separate from individual projects, please explain your overall vision for Pittsboro’s future.

The request by Pittsboro Place Partners, LLC (whoever they are) to rezone the only prime piece of industrial zoned property in Pittsboro to primarily commercial retail and office space stands as an antithesis to the overall vision that Pittsboro Together candidates embody. The untimely granting of the rezoning request by the Town Board majority in their haste to cast votes in the midst of a $50000.00 citizen driven land use plan not yet completed, along with their lack of responsiveness to citizen majority input during public hearings stands in direct opposition to what Pittsboro Together candidates seek to achieve through a platform of:

  • open and responsive government of, by and for the People,
  • citizen driven planning based on “smart growth” principles and
  • the creation of economic development based on local small businesses and high tech industry with high paying jobs that replace a dead end consumer model by rewarding businesses that are willing and able to create and develop innovative and sustainable models that help to build a healthy community.

7. The departure of the previous town manager was an ugly episode in town government. Now that you’ve hired a new manager, what do you want him to accomplish in the next six months? How about in the next year?

Pittsboro has a history of short lived Town Managers. A Town Board should spend time with a new hire reviewing this history, learning from the past and together setting objectives and goals for the long haul. Pittsboro Together candidates regularly spend quality time in team building, and we look forward to continuing this team building process with all Town staff.

Personally, I would like to work with facilitators that could assist elected officials and Town employees to engage in group dynamics processes that define our personalities, management styles and the variety of gifts that we bring to the table; and then proceed to help us form a game plan that best utilizes the talents of the whole team.

8. If you are incumbent, please share some self-reflection about the pros and cons of the job the current mayor and council are doing leading the town. If you are a challenger, critique the job the incumbents are doing.

Every elected official deserves the gratitude and respect of citizens for their willingness to run for and serve in office. I am thankful for service provided and respectful of the office held by all incumbents.

Having been a citizen advocate for years, speaking out to County and Municipal Boards, I learned that one may speak until they are blue in the face and merely spin their wheels when words fall on deaf ears. Such learning motivated me to become actively involved in the democratic process of seeking and supporting candidates for election.

I worked diligently two years ago to put Randy Voller in the Mayor’s chair and Pamela Baldwin at his side. I accepted the call to run now for Town Board in part because I believe our Pittsboro Together team of candidates is needed to assist them in fulfilling the Vision for Pittsboro we all share. Clearly, based upon both observed behavior and verbal comment, the current Town Board majority shares neither our Vision for the Town nor our affinity for the Mayor.

This election provides a means by which people with a new agenda can be given an opportunity to take the best of a historic small town with its own unique character and build its identity from the grass roots up and from the inside (town center) out. This is a chance to step out of the “business as usual” mentality and imagine what it would be like to engage and empower citizens to take control of their government and plan their future, rather than simply reacting to the whims of power brokers intent on padding their own pockets at the expense of a community.

When failed infrastructure and tainted tap water remain the primary concerns of citizens year after year, and when dwindling raw and waste water resources are continuously dispensed willy-nilly to new development interests as though they were in endless supply, then it is time to stop and begin to turn the ship of state in another direction. When lack of sound planning allows for predictions of Pittsboro to soon become just another cookie cutter version of “Cary West,” while citizens call for preservation of a small town character; then it is time to hit the brakes and restart with a proactive planning process that balances preservation of natural resources and quality of life with the desire to amass wealth, or to extract fees and taxes from modern day “Pied Pipers” perceived to be economic saviors.

There are no easy solutions to long standing problems. Climbing out of a deep and self imposed hole is a huge challenge. The first step in the long process is to stop digging. The next step is to look up and see the light. From there on we learn how to stand on one another’s shoulders as a team working toward that day when we all stand on level ground together enjoying the fruits of a small and sustainable community.

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