Randolph S. Voller | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Randolph S. Voller

Pittsboro - Mayor and Town Board

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Randolph S. Voller

Date of birth: January 8, 1969

Home address: 21 Randolph Court, Pittsboro, NC 27312

Mailing address, if different from home: P.O Box 878 Pittsboro, NC 27312

Campaign website: www.randyvoller.com

Campaign Facebook site: www.facebook.com/pages/Randy-Voller-for-Mayor

Occupation & employer: Real estate/ VRC, Ltd. (self-employed)

Email: voller4mayor@gmail.com

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.

To answer the question fully I will let others speak for me:

(Additionally, I have attached my CV for review as well.)

"I won't make this a long pitch. Randolph Voller is, of course, Mayor of Pittsboro. He is also in my opinion Chatham County's brightest and best young politician. He is a tireless worker, a clear thinker, and inclusive in his political alliances and activities. Following the election of Governor Perdue, it was my privilege to nominate Randy to study overseas under the German Marshall Fund and to serve in any appropriate agency or board in the Perdue administration. Those nominations, undoubtedly joined by others, have been successful, and this dynamic local politician is earning recognition day by day as one of our most promising players worthy of statewide, regional, and even national notice." Former UNC-CH Chancellor Paul Hardin

"I have only been living in Chatham for 23 years, but I have followed Pittsboro politics ever since - for what happens in Pittsboro affects us all. You are by far, the best mayor the town has had. It is unbelievable the progress made since you have been its mayor. Hope, vision and smarts are yours and you have made the town a place everyone can be proud of. One of the most "can do" people I have ever known." Barb Alotis, former President of the Chatham County Democratic Women

"Of course I endorse you. You're the first Mayor Pittsboro has ever had who really did the job of being a mayor, supporting people who needed help, organizing business initiatives, working to help entrepreneurs, regulating how growth comes about, working towards sustainable efforts in the community and much, much more." Barbara Lorie, Pittsboro"Randy you are a major reason why Pittsboro is a great place to live and becoming an even more wonderful place to live ;)" Kate Ralston, local business owner in Pittsboro

"...Indeed, I first met the Mayor when I served with him on Chatham County's Affordable Housing Task Force. He was a strong voice for moderation who brokered cooperative efforts between developers and those advocating for county residents in need. I know firsthand that he is a problem solver of the first order. Importantly, he fully understands the necessity to work cooperatively across party lines to achieve governmental goals. I expect that you will hear from others in this regard..." Bruce Ladd, Jr., retired, former Republican White House official

"...Mayor Voller is an extremely motivated and engaged leader who has a wealth of experience in real estate sales, residential development and a business background. I have worked with Randy for four years and in that time he has served as chairman and I serve as vice chairman. (TARPO) I have witnessed first-hand Randy's very special ability to work across party lines to achieve goals. Randy works tremendously well with people. He is proactive in his duties as Mayor and has achieved growth that has had a positive impact on his town and its residents. Mayor Voller is a creative problem solver and strategic thinker..." Jimmy D. Melton, Vice-Chairman, Moore County Commissioners

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

I consider myself a pragmatic progressive. I believe it to be my job to help the Town provide value to the citizens and local business community. As elected officials we have four constituencies: those who vote for us, those who vote against us, those who do not vote or cannot vote and most importantly -- the future. My governing philosophy is future oriented.

In my 4th term, I will continue to work for the people of Pittsboro to:

Improve the quality and availability of water and sewer resources

Increase urban green spaces, recreational access and greenway trails

Strengthen downtown vitality and business opportunities

Promote sustainable, local businesses and residential development

Support affordable housing, safe neighborhoods and better transportation

Ensure transparent and fiscally responsible governance

How will I do it?

Maintain high visibility in the community by personally and frequently interacting with citizens to hear first-hand the concerns and issues of Pittsboro voters and business persons;

Find common ground among representatives in local and regional government to quickly and efficiently solve problems affecting our constituents;

Actively encourages Pittsboro citizens to participate in town matters by attending town meetings, joining committees and advocating on behalf of local interests;

Advocating for Pittsboro at the State and Federal levels in order to fund improvements for the town without raising taxes

"Cooperation between town officials and staff, paired with an informed and engaged citizenry is the most effective and inclusive way to meet the challenges of Pittsboro's future. I call this approach Team Pittsboro." —Mayor Randy Voller

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

I have been the Mayor of Pittsboro for almost six years. Early on I was told by an experienced leader that if I "chose to lead I would be less popular than if I chose to maintain the status quo..." His point was that every decision could potentially upset and/or alienate constituents. I chose to lead which meant that I championed Liquor-by-the-Drink for Chatham County, stood up with advocates against 287-g, William Gheen and ALI-PAC (even though the issue is not a direct Pittsboro issue), traveled to Mexico with the Latino Initiative to learn more about the driving forces of immigration, worked with advocacy groups and Congressman Price to obtain a GAO audit of safety issues at Shearon Harris. Recently, I have been working with the "anti-fracking" groups in Chatham County to ensure a fair hearing on the issue.

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

My re-election will ensure that there will be a voice in Chatham County reminding citizens: that our system needs reform; that the dangers of the corporatacracy are not a myth; and that America has a growing wealth, income and structural inequality problem that must be addressed. Over the past six years I have built a network of people from across the political spectrum who I believe can attest to the fact that I am fair, willing to listen, not dogmatic and above all care about people over material possessions.

Pittsboro recently was accepted into the Small Town Main Street Program, which is designed to help towns with less than 7,500 people create jobs and revitalize their downtowns. How should Pittsboro best take advantage of this program? What are your priorities in job creation and downtown revitalization?

Pittsboro will take a team approach by convening the downtown business owners, building owners, Pittsboro Business Association (PBA), Chatham County Economic Development Corp., and the leadership of the Town and County to craft a land use plan and a business plan for the downtown district. Additionally we will leverage the programs recommended by the Main Street staff to bring expertise and funding to the Main Street effort. We will also explore business improvement districts (BIDs), tax credit financing, special assessment districts, tax incremental financing (TIFs), revolving loan funds, and community development programs. Finally, we will focus on retaining and growing locally owned businesses. A key component of this strategy will be supporting the locavore movement and Chatham County's burgeoning creative culture. This policy is a continuation of my philosophy of making Pittsboro a place where "people want to live" as opposed to "have to live".

With the pending closure of Townsend Chicken Plant in Pittsboro, how will the town compensate for the lost property tax and utilities revenue? What are the immediate impacts if the plant closes? What are the short- and long-term solutions to filling the economic gap left by this plant?

The Townsend Chicken Plant is not in Pittsboro's corporate limits so it has no impact on the ad valorem property tax revenue for the Town of Pittsboro.

The bigger challenge will be reconciling the loss of water revenue. This has happened to the Town of Pittsboro once before and it created a budget gap in the enterprise fund. Since that previous experience, the Town has added a significant number of customers and spread its risk, allowing the Town to make the enterprise fund profitable. However, the loss of Townsends will require belt tightening as well as the need for a focus on revenue growth. Further, it will be difficult to avoid rate increases unless the Town can sell more reuse water to 3M, develop more customers for the reuse water, add more residential and commercial customers to the system, and gain another large water customer such as Chatham County.

The Town needs to monitor the closing of the plant and work with Chatham County and the State to ensure the health and public safety of our citizens. The plant had a permitted spray field, ponds, and other infrastructure which need to be monitored and shut down properly.

Additionally, the plant employed a number of workers in and around Pittsboro. Replacing those jobs will be a challenge. As an ex-officio member of the Chatham County Economic Development Corp. (CCEDC) I am working with the CCEDC to stay abreast of the situation and keep the Town board informed.

Finally, the plant closing has created an opportunity to reimagine and repurpose the site. The best long-term solution would be for a public/private partnership to purchase the site and reopen it as a 21st century eco-industrial park. The logical partners would be the NC Division of Commerce, Chatham County, the Central Carolina Community College, the Town of Pittsboro, the NC Biofuels Center, and private capital. Under this scenario, a new plan can be implemented and the Central Carolina Community College can train workers who can be placed in jobs located at the eco-industrial park. Finally, the spray fields and infrastructure on the site could potentially be used by the Town of Pittsboro to expand its reuse water network and implement an environmental solution for wastewater.

Along those revenue lines, how will the town pay for the new 3.2 MGD wastewater treatment plant? How would you keep residential water and sewer fees from sharply increasing?

The Town will need to either issue a bond and/or request participation from private developers to build the new WWTP. In the short term, the Town should continue enhancing its reuse (gray) water capability and potential to distribute reuse water to new customers. In the long term, the Town needs to explore all options including whether sewer effluent should be pumped to Sanford. A potential partnership with Chatham County and the City of Sanford would result in an "OWASA" –like consortium for the region and would lessen environmental impacts on Robeson Creek and Jordan Lake.

As for the water and sewer rates, the Town did not raise them in this fiscal year. It will be a challenge to keep them static unless the Town can sell more reuse water to 3M, develop more customers for the reuse water, add more residential and commercial customers to the system, and/or gain another large water customer such as Chatham County.

What should Pittsboro's priorities be in crafting a land use plan? What areas of town need special attention and why?

Since I first ran for office in 2005, I have advocated for growth to occur from the "inside out"; which means an intentional strategy of downtown revitalization, infill development and development within Pittsboro's core service area. It has never been a question of whether we will grow, but rather "how" we will grow that will set the course for Pittsboro and ultimately the area. The plan will need to account for the current reality in Pittsboro and Chatham County:

For example, the economic crash of 2008 has left a scar in Chatham County that includes:

(Data derived from the Chatham County affordable housing meeting on 9/20/2011)

a lower percentage of owner occupied homes (78.4%);

an increase in the demand for rentals;

an oversupply of potential housing units (lots) in the pipeline (over 17,000);

a drop in average wages to $29,000;

approximately nine housing projects in bankruptcy;

a 91% rise of the waiting list for section 8 housing to 900 applicants;

a drop of 22% in the value of building permits;

a 31% rise in the median rent for 3-bedroom apt/home to $1,295/ per month;

a consistent demand for affordable housing and rental units in and around Pittsboro.

Given the aforesaid grim picture the land use plan must:

address the long-term need for workforce housing and affordable rental stock;

reconcile the pressures to grow and change with the needs of our citizens;

learn from the successes and failures of our neighbors;

maintain the "character" and "quality of life" of Pittsboro;

account for long-range transportation needs -- including traffic on 15-501;

integrate the pedestrian master plan;

integrate transit and other transportation needs;

maintain the core area in downtown Pittsboro;

preserve greenways, open space and areas for agriculture in the ETJ;

create areas for mixed-use development;

create areas for commercial and reasonable industrial development;

account for the institutional demands of schools, fire stations, etc;

enhance core assets such as the Community College Campus

What is your position on fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, in Pittsboro and Chatham County? Please justify your position.

I have advocated against SB 709 and supported Governor Perdue's veto of the legislation. I had never heard of the practice until a friend, Jim Neal, invited me to view an early edition of "Gasland" last year. I was appalled by the footage and ashamed to witness how some Americans have been grossly mistreated by the industry. Since then I have consistently advocated for a careful review of the process, an extremely cautious approach, education of land owners, and decisions made on the basis of actual costs and a factual nexus. I cannot support fracking without strong regulation and guarantees from the industry that it will neither attempt to "externalize costs" nor cause damage to our water supply.

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.

As the current Mayor, of course I believe we can always work harder, smarter and create even more value for our citizens; however, all things considered, we have done a pretty good job as a team.

Long-time Town Commissioner Gene Brooks recently told me that we handle more business and do more work in a month or two as a board than the previous Town Boards used to handle in a year.

Taxes have not been raised in my three terms and the tax base has grown over 60%. User rates for water and sewer were not raised this fiscal year.

Scott Jewell, Pittsboro's water superintendent recently said, "The quality of water delivered to our community is the highest it's been in 10 years."

Additionally, Pittsboro has daily bus service to UNC-CH, its own brewery (Carolina Brewery), biofuels producer (Piedmont Biofuels), organic grocery (Chatham Marketplace), three farmers markets and new restaurants and pubs (The City Tap) fueled by the successful referendum for liquor-by-the drink.

The Town of Pittsboro has built two new parks, almost 10,000 linear feet of greenway, renovated Kiwanis park, fixed the tennis courts, built basketball courts, run a reuse water line to 3M, updated the water plant, renovated the sewer plant, built sidewalks, paved miles of roads, renovated the old sewer lines and manholes, green lighted a project to restore Town Lake Park, and have obtained almost six and a half million dollars of grants and zero interest funding. Finally, the team has obtained a permit to expand the Wastewater Treatment Plant, been given an award by DEHNR for our innovative reuse water project serving 3M, been designated as a "Bronze Award Winner" Fit Community by the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund, and recently won designation as a member of the Small Town Main Program.


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