Editor’s note: An error in the production process in last week’s edition resulted in an unedited version of this Q&A with Goldston Mayor Tim Cunnup being published. This week, the fully …
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Editor’s note: An error in the production process in last week’s edition resulted in an unedited version of this Q&A with Goldston Mayor Tim Cunnup being published. This week, the fully edited version of part one of the feature, along with this week’s scheduled part two, are presented below.
Tim Cunnup has been mayor of Goldston for so many years that he’s lost count.
“This next term will be going on 20, I think,” he says.
So what’s life in the big chair like as mayor of one of North Carolina’s smallest towns? For Cunnup — whose full-time job is owning, along with his wife Camille, H&B Furniture Legacy Co. in Siler City — it’s multi-faceted. And busier than you might think. This week we speak to Cunnup about goings-on in Goldston and his reflections from two decades as the town’s top elected official.
How would you describe the job, the role, of mayor of — first of all a small town, but specifically Goldston?
As a small-town mayor, what I have learned over the years is we run the town just like a large town. We have five commissioners, a clerk, and a mayor, so the protocol to run the town is just like if it were Raleigh, except on a tiny scale. What you run into, though, in being the mayor of a tiny town is that we don’t have the resources of a larger town. Therefore, the mayor ends up wearing a lot of hats. So in a sense, I feel, over the years, as much — or maybe more — like a town manager than a mayor. That’s a hat that I sort of wear a lot, because of all the different responsibilities that fall under that, and without having a town manager or a town planner or whatever…
But the responsibilities? It’s been very enjoyable because of our size. We finally have the infrastructure — we have water and sewer, which was a huge accomplishment for our town. So that’s give us much more responsibility and, fortunately, I have a good board of commissioners who have helped greatly with it.
Would you describe it as a labor of love?
It’s definitely a labor of love. No one can ever say I did it for the money. I still think my pay as mayor is a cup of coffee a day, pretty much.
What do you like best about being mayor?
Goldston is a unique community. You know, it’s one of those little Mayberrys. For the most part, everybody still knows everybody. And it’s a close-knit community — it’s still one of the communities where neighbors help neighbors. It’s very gratifying to live in that kind of community and then to also be the mayor of it.
Anything you don’t like?
A lot of times for me, time management is critical, and there are meetings I need to be at, and I feel stressed out of obligation to be there. I just don’t have the time to do everything that I need to do. So, probably, that.
Or either when somebody calls and says that a wheel is off their trashcan or that there’s a dead deer in front of their house...
So looking back on your tenure, what are you most proud of?
Well, it has to be the infrastructure of getting sewer in, because when you’re talking about a town of 300 people, so many people said, “Forget it; Goldston will never have sewer.” First, we had the realization that it was not feasible for us to have a plant, and the fact that we had to go a different direction…that’s when we started talking about regionalization, and going to the City of Sanford. So if it had not been for Lee County and Sanford, we still would not have sewer. So that insight of, “Hey, wow, let’s run a line to Sanford and negotiate with them.” Bam! The last feasibility study for a plant was like $50 million. We ended up doing this little project for a little over $7 million, so without question that was the largest feat for us in my tenure. No doubt.
If you could wave your magic mayor wand and get one thing done just like that what would it be?
Several things, but if I had to categorize and put down just one, now that we do have the infrastructure to handle it, would be more job opportunity. That would be it. Second, I’d be really interested in streetscape, getting the money to dress the town up again.
You’re in an interesting position because you work in Siler City, the county seat is Pittsboro, you’re the mayor of Goldston, and you’re part of the larger Chatham County. Do you ever have any frustrations with the way Goldston is seen, portrayed, or treated within the scope of the county?
Certainly, the focus has always been on Siler City and Pittsboro. Goldston is the little guy down in the south. But at the same time, I’ve got to say that I have great respect for the county and how they have been able to step up and help us over the years. And even with the sewer project. They are a huge part of us being able to do that. So the county has always been favorable when I have gone to talk with them about our needs. And of course there’s that bridge we’ve always had to have with the county for our Emergency Management Services, ambulance, Sheriff’s Department… We are so small that we don’t have our own law enforcement, so we rely on the Sheriff’s department; we actually provide them an office in our town hall, so they have a place to come to.
Let’s get back to growth and economic development… Chatham County is unique because so many people live here and work outside the county. Thinking about Siler City specifically, how would you describe the economy of Goldston? What’s the business climate like?
Our growth in economy has been slow. It was non-existent before sewer. Now, I guess the big coup that we’ve had since then is Alotech moving in... Since Tommy Kirk acquired Conveyor Technology in Sanford and brought it to Goldston, the potential there is 160 jobs. We would have never had that possibility without sewer, so that right there is huge. I’m looking at that as a wonderful base we’ve got now, so hopefully we can just build off of that. The other thing I’m seeing with the growth is several young families are buying homes in Goldston and putting their roots in Goldston, which is something that has not happened in years. So we’re starting once again to retain the young people. You know, Pittsboro used to be thought of as a bedroom community to Chapel Hill and Cary. I think Goldston is going to be more and more looked at as a bedroom community to maybe Pittsboro or Siler City. It’s a little gem that people are going to realize and say “wow,” it’s not that far away — it’s a wonderful place to live.
What else makes Goldston specifically a livable, attractive place to put down roots?
The fact that it’s a close-knit community, our small town feel, and then, strategically, we’re really in a great location, even though people who haven’t been to Goldston think it’s in the middle of nowhere. But you can be in Sanford or Fayetteville or, going north, Siler City, Greensboro, or going east Pittsboro, Raleigh. You can be in Raleigh within 45 minutes, which is a very reasonable commute these days. So for the people who want to have that small-town atmosphere and yet be able to commute...we have it. And as we grow in the county and are able to provide more and more jobs, that strategic location and community feel will help us.
What’s next for Goldston?
We’re currently approved for our next phase for sewer and adding on more people to the system. We have a community development block grant that will enable us to provide sewer for about 30 more houses on the east side of town across Hwy. 421. I’m real excited about that, because there was a great need environmentally to be able to provide that. That’s a biggie. Secondly, the Goldston-Gulf Sanitary District is going to start construction any day now on the new water tower, and that tower is going to be able to provide much more efficiency in our water usage and pressure, and it’s going to be a big help to the community. It’ll be located just on the other side of the fire department on Goldston-Carbonton Road, just on the edge of town there. It’s one of the high spots of town.