by Joe Schwartz
Carrboro mayoral candidate Amanda Ashley owes more than $20,000 in unpaid child support and has served jail time because of her failure to pay, according to Orange County court documents.
In February 2007, Ashley, formerly known as Richard before she began living as a woman, owed $22,522.42 for the two children she had with her wife, Madelyn Ashley. The couple is now divorced.
In late 2006, an Orange County judge found Ashley in civil contempt because she had not paid child support; she served 13 days in the Orange County Jail until she paid $1,500 in support to be released.
"I'm not perfect, I admit I had a problem with the payments when I was not working," says Ashley, who lost her job at The Chapel Hill News in 2003 when the paper downsized. "It's all a matter of public record. It's nothing that I'm hiding from. I'm not hiding from the fact that I was in arrears and that I've now maintained payment."
Ashley, who now works at Phydeaux in Chapel Hill, says her period of unemployment lead to a "depression-related breakdown."
"I was not a productive citizen, so to speak. I lost my home. I was living with friends, and I got behind," says Ashley, who describes herself as a "translesbian, Wiccan, feminist" on her MySpace page. "I was simply not in a position to take care of myself for quite some time."
Given the reduction in her income, in 2007, Ashley, 53, was ordered to pay $439 a month, down from $650. Judge Alonzo Coleman also stipulated that Ashley's wages be garnished and credit be reported.
Ashley told the Indy that she's been forthright in paying child support since the amount was decreased. Ex-wife Madelyn Ashley, who declined to comment for this story, says she receives payment about once every three months. The case file bears out her assertion: Orange County Child Support Enforcement filed two cases in September and October 2008 for Ashley's failure to comply with the support order.
Ashley says Phydeaux "forgot to send the check" withheld from her salary. "My boss neglected to send the check. Child support services didn't have the courtesy to give us a phone call. We went through this court thing that we didn't have to because they didn't have the courtesy to give me a phone call. We sent the check, and it's not a problem."
Nonetheless, Ashley pledges to push forward as a viable mayoral candidate. "The fact that I did have a depression-related breakdown which incapacitated me for awhile shows that I'm human and that I can recover from a bad situation," said Ashley, who is running against two-term incumbent Mark Chilton and challenger Brian Voyce.
Ashley says she has consulted therapists throughout her life due to depression. She took medication after a severe episode in late 2003 and has since turned to meditation, light therapy and diet. Through treatment she says she's been "depression-free for quite some time."
"The issue of my 'genderism,' so to speak, has always been in the background of my life," she says. "It wasn't until following the separation and divorce that I began transitioning full time."
The transition continues. Ashley says she has not had gender reassignment surgery, adding, "If someone gives me $80,000, I'll think about it."
For now, the campaign continues with a push for a population cap and maintaining a green and urban environment as top planks.
"I don't think that those things in the past would directly relate to what ideas I am presenting," she says. "The voters have an opportunity to look at and decide for themselves whether they want to go in that direction."