SILER CITY — Siler City residents will cast ballots for mayor in May’s election for the first time since John Grimes died in office in 2020.
Siler City’s municipal elections were delayed after the town had to redraw its voting maps following the 2020 census. The elections were delayed further when the gerrymandering suits brought election filing to a halt in December.
Three candidates seek the seat: lifelong residents Thomas “Chip” Price III and Donald Matthews, and Siler City newcomer Nick Gallardo.
Chip Price: Price has served on the board of commissioners for about 10 years as one of two commissioners-at large. He announced his intention to file for mayor in December. His commissioner at-large seat is unexpired, so if he were to not be elected, Price would continue his tenure as a town commissioner.
“(I want) to continue the vision and work already started by the town board and staff,” Price said.
Price said he wants to address a wide range of issues in Siler City, such as upgrading and repairing aging infrastructure, providing more affordable and “conventional” housing options, increasing the average household income for the area and bringing more manufacturing jobs to the town.
“I have a very deep understanding of what the residents of Siler City prefer and expect,” Price said. “My relationship with a vast cross section of people allows me to interact with people and find out what their issues and concerns are.”
He believes it’s the duty of local government to “provide fire protection, police protection, water and sewer services as well as trash removal,” while trying to keep it as cost effective as possible for Siler City tax payers.
“The town should also strive to ensure that citizens are treated fairly and equally,” he said. “While there is always room for improvement, the town is currently fulfilling its mission with the resources available.”
It is the mayor’s duty to be a champion for their residents, Price said. With his 10 years of serving on the board of commissioners and working with citizens during that time, Price said he believes he is ready to take on the role of being Siler City’s “cheerleader.”
“The responsibilities of the mayor should first and foremost be to look out for the best interest of all the town’s citizens,” Price said. “The mayor should also be a cheerleader for the town and promote growth so all citizens can have an opportunity to prosper. With the very diverse population Siler City has, the mayor should always be looking for constructive ways to include all citizens in the conversation.”
Donald Matthews: Matthews, like Price, is a lifelong resident of Siler City. He serves as an associate pastor at First Missionary Baptist Church in Siler City and has worked to recognize historic Black-owned businesses along Birch Avenue.
Matthews ran for a commissioner seat 18 years ago, but he said he wanted to run for mayor out of the love he has for his hometown.
“I have watched my hometown lose many of its former employers — Boling Chair, Glendale (and) Collins & Aikman just to name a few,” Matthews said. “Our young people leave and go to college and have nothing to return to for employment. Our youth do not have any place to have fun ... no entertainment at all. Our water stinks sometimes — we just need change if we are to survive.”
The three goals Matthews wants to accomplish if he is voted into office include being open, honest and truthful, improving Siler City infrastructure and recruiting businesses to provide better paying jobs for residents.
He also said he wants to help improve citizens’ morale, as he claims some people feel not heard by previous Siler City administrations.
“I hear it often, ‘They are not going to do anything, so why attend city council meetings?’” he said. “That is the biggest challenge — getting to believe the citizens that we can, and we will.”
Matthews said the role commissioners and the mayor must play to ensure the best for residents is to make the decisions “of the people, by the people, for the people.” As mayor, he said he would always make sure to work on behalf of Siler City’s citizens and not to pursue his own agenda.
“A good mayor knows it is about the citizens you represent,” Matthews said. “You are always thinking how we can make it better and sharing those ideas with the people for feedback … I will put in the work by working with others to make Siler City better for all its citizens.”
Nick Gallardo: Gallardo is a new Siler City resident, and if elected, he would become the youngest and first Hispanic mayor in Siler City and North Carolina history at 23 years old.
“Representation matters in a town where the majority is made up of minorities, but yet we still suffer as if we were in the minority,” he said. “The town as a whole has suffered under the reign of a board that does not represent the diversity that is Siler City.”
He is running on a “unity ticket” with three other Siler City newcomers seeking office on the board of commissioners — brothers Dean Picot II Jared Picot, and Sam Williams. Each of the members of the ticket have pledged to bring 1,000 jobs paying salaries of at least $40,000 within their first fiscal year in office.
Gallardo’s campaign has also zeroed in on improving town-operated facilities, addressing drug problems in Siler City and bringing more high-paying jobs and industries to the area. However, he said he wants to establish “trust through transparency” with citizens and ensure they always know what is going on at town hall.
“My understanding of the duties of mayor is to be a champion of the under-resourced, the overlooked and the community as a whole,” Gallardo said. “Whereas I don’t have an actual vote on the board, unless (in) a tie, my ear will always be available to the citizens so my voice will echo (in) the chambers of city hall.”
Gallardo may be a new face in town, but he said since moving to Siler City, he has seen a need for a change in leadership. He said he is ready to take on the challenges of the mayor’s office and to “serve all of the people.”
“(Municipal government) has not done (its job) through not properly stewarding the resources to ensure everyone has the proper access to health care, quality jobs and has failed to put the needs of our children and their futures first,” Gallardo said. “What needs to change is the people that hold office and look out for the people they know as opposed to being out in the community.”
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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