Tom Stevens | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Tom Stevens

Candidate for Hillsborough Mayor


Name as it appears on the ballot: Tom Stevens
Full legal name, if different: Thomas I. Stevens
Date of birth: 3/3/1954
Home address: 213 W Tryon St Hillsborough NC
Mailing address, if different from home: n/a
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Leadership Development Consultant, Esquare Leadership LLC (business owner),
Home phone: 644-0305
Work phone: 245-1026
Cell phone: 423-1482
E-mail: or

1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Hillsborough? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

The top issues facing Hillsborough are growth and development, infrastructure, and traffic.

I will continue to seek decisions and actions that support our vision of an involved community with a unique small town character, celebrating and preserving our heritage, while promoting broad prosperity and vitality for Hillsborough. Top priorities for the coming year are an overhaul of the town’s ordinances so they reflect the kind of community we want to preserve and create, and to bring outside resources to things that benefit our entire community such as art events and facilities, or parks and trails.

2) What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Town Board? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have many years experience in the practice and teaching of a leadership style that is facilitative, i.e. leadership that helps people work together and brings out the best contributions of all involved. I demonstrated this in my previous career as social worker, including twelve years as a non-profit executive director in Durham. In 2001 I founded a consulting company based on promoting these leadership principles, and have had clients that include major corporations, small businesses, non-profits, universities and colleges, and public agencies. My first term as mayor has seen town board members, volunteers, and staff working together to create a more unified vision for Hillsborough, and using this vision as a basis for action.

3) 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 progressive and a practical idealist. At the local level, particularly given non-partisan municipal elections, distinctions of republican/democrat or conservative/liberal are neither descriptive or meaningful. When it gets down to the community level, what’s important is moving forward with integrity to serve all parts of the town. I don’t particularly care for politics, but I love this town and will continue to be an avid spokesperson on its behalf.

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

Bill Cosby once said “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” I believe there is widespread agreement on a vision for Hillsborough especially regarding preserving our small town character while stimulating overall town vitality. But there can be major disagreements in how to achieve this vision, especially when we get down to specific decisions regarding approvals for development. As each development project needs to be looked at on its own merits and in the context of impact on the entire town, ultimately decisions are made, and I am sure for any give decision there are some who will be less than happy.

5) On more than one occasion, real estate developer American Asset Corporation submitted plans to turn 200 acres on the southern end of town into a mixed-use development, but Hillsborough officials have been reluctant to give the stamp of approval. Should the Town commit to working with American Asset to develop the property, and if so, under what conditions? If the current proposal does not come to fruition, should the Town recruit a new developer to work on the tract or wait until the next offer comes along?

The town has an obligation to give anyone who applies for a project all due consideration as a matter of consideration for property owners and folks who want to do business in/with our town. At the same time, the town need to carefully review and hold development projects to very high standards before approving, including how the project fits the vision for the town and provides an overall benefit for citizens. Review of projects includes not only whether to construct, but also the timing of construction, which should be considered before actively recruiting for development.

6) What kinds of development projects would interfere with the town’s plans for its future?

Projects that are inconsistent with the strategic growth plan, as adopted by the Hillsborough town board and by the Orange County Commissioners this past year.

7) Under what circumstances should the Town Board consider changing the town attorney?

When it’s clear that the board no longer trusts the legal advice given by the attorney.

8) What lessons were learned in the search for the police chief that could be applied to future hiring decisions?

9) What lessons were learned in the Town’s protracted battle to prevent the construction of an asphalt plant within Town limits? What can the Town do to avoid similar problems in the future?

Two important learning points stand out from the asphalt plant experience. One, the town needs to be meticulous about procedures for our quasi-judicial boards. Second, the town urgently needs to revise our ordinances to remove inconsistencies with our town vision. This has been planned for several years, however the asphalt plant experience coupled with some additions to town planning staff will serve to move the ordinance re-write to a higher priority.

10) What approach would you take to resolve the dispute the factions competing for control of the Hillsborough Farmers Market?

It’s clear to me that everyone, including those caught up in the dispute, wants to continue a vibrant farmers market for Hillsborough. I am cooperating with county officials to bring the disputing parties to the mediation table, and include other community voices who can have a positive influence as our farmers market evolves.

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