Meet Goldston’s (likely) mayor-to-be, Jonathan Hensley

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GOLDSTON — Many municipalities across the country will elect new officials this November, but precluding a substantial write-in campaign, Goldston’s mayoral race is already decided.

Jonathan Hensley, a lifelong Goldston resident, is the town’s only registered candidate and will likely replace Mayor Tim Cunnup, who is stepping aside after nearly 30 years in town politics.

“It was certainly a hard decision because when you’ve done something that long and you’ve worked on so many projects, it’s sort of hard to give it all up,” Cunnup previously told the News + Record. “But at the same time, I’m approaching retirement age, and really have been hoping for some younger people to get involved in town government. And that time has come, so I feel like it’s time for the old guy to move on and get some young blood in and let them take it over and run with it.”

In Hensley, Cunnup identified the youthful ambition he hopes will facilitate Goldston’s continued revitalization.

“Tim came to me and expressed his interest in getting some younger people because our board’s been on the board forever and a day,” Hensley said. “It was an honor for him to take an interest like that, and I’m excited to sort of take up the baton.”

Henley, 37, was born in Siler City, but moved to Goldston with his mother when he was 2 years old. His family has deep roots in town, running Rufus’ Restaurant — named for Hensley’s grandfather — since 1973. After serving 14 years with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, the last 10 as a detective, Hensley left law enforcement in May to help his grandmother as restaurant manager. As mayor, he hopes to promote an atmosphere that will attract more businesses like his family’s.

“Right now we’re kind of limited to two restaurants, a service station, a gas station and the Dollar General,” he said. “So I’d really like to see more local business coming in. I want to offer something for the community so that if local families want to start up a bakery, or some type of little antique store or something like that, they can. I would really like to see more shops in Goldston to bring in more commerce to benefit everybody.”

Before businesses can flourish, though, some basic infrastructure is necessary. Hensley’s first priority as mayor will be to secure reliable and fast broadband internet for residents across town.

“I’ve been in contact with Randolph Communication to get fiber run to the town and maybe get citywide Wi-Fi for the park and stuff like that,” he said. “Imagine if people can go to the library, go to a local coffee shop, sit outside on a beautiful day and do their homework or do some research or what have you.”

The last year has spotlighted internet shortages in areas such as Goldston as students and workers struggled to connect with teachers and colleagues from the confines of their homes. And it’s increasingly difficult to operate a business without easy internet access.

“As far as a hard line goes, our only provider is CenturyLink, and they’re not great,” Hensley said. “It’s really hard, especially for students, and it’s tough for business, too.”

Small towns often have difficulty attracting internet providers, but Goldston’s roughly 250 residents are enough, Hensley says, for Randolph Communication to profit.

“Randolph is very interested in coming to town,” he said. “They told us what to expect, what they can offer, which will be town Wi-Fi to the park and the library and fiber to all the houses.”

The company will not commit, though, without explicit interest from most town residents, which can be done via www.myrandolphfiber.net/address-lookup/.

“We just have to have enough interest, which I’ve kind of put the call out for on our Facebook page,” Hensley said. “You go to that website on Randolph, fill out your interest, and if they have so many people within a certain radius that want it they’d be more than willing to come out and run all kinds of fiber everywhere for the town. That’d be really good for businesses as well, just to upgrade that internet speed so they can conduct a little bit more business.”

Other top priorities for Hensley include continued sewer expansion — building upon one of Cunnup’s greatest achievements — and widening the town limits.

“Goldston hasn’t grown any in 30 or 40 years, somewhere around in there, maybe even longer than that,” he said. “Essentially, our city limits have been unchanged since Goldston was incorporated. So we’re kind of looking at expanding our city limits so that people can get city water, they can get city trash pickup, they can get city sewer, and it would give us a little bit more tax revenue to make improvements to the town like broadband and other upgrades.”

That’s not to say he envisions a large town. The “hometown feel” is what many residents love about Goldston, Hensley says, and it’s one of his favorite features.

“People complain, ‘We don’t want a giant town, we don’t want a big city,’” he said, “and I don’t want that either.”

But he wants an improved town where business can thrive and residents can access the necessities of 21st Century living.

“I would like everybody to know that if there’s something they would like to have in the town, I’m open for a discussion,” Hensley said. “I definitely like new ideas, and I think that’s kind of where we’ve been stagnant over the years. So tell us what you have in mind, what ideas you have, and I want to see how we can help and assist.”

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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