Stohlman Earns Mayor’s Endorsement

Morrisville Action picks the strongest candidates in each election regardless of past endorsements. In fact, 7 of the 8 candidates endorsed by Morrisville Action in the past two elections have been elected. Although we endorsed Jackie Holcombe in 2009, this time we are endorsing Mark Stohlman for Morrisville Mayor because we believe he has become the stronger candidate, while Jackie Holcombe has strayed from her once strong vision.

Jackie Holcombe Demonstrates
Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe and Democratic activist Laurie Miller protesting outside the North Carolina Legislature in June 2013.

Normally, Morrisville Action focuses exclusively on the positives of the people we endorse and leaves it to the individual candidates to discuss their concerns about their opponents. However, there has been a lot of interest in why we switched our endorsement from Holcombe, one of the original founders of Morrisville Action, to endorsing Stohlman in the current election.

Overall, we have observed that Stohlman builds consensus, while Holcombe polarizes and divides. Under Holcombe’s leadership, the Town Council has become so contentious that it has even become the subject of a recent front-page article in the Cary News (click to read article)

We believe we need Stohlman’s calm, deliberate leadership and consensus building. We are impressed with his financial expertise as a CPA, and general organizational management skills. Stohlman’s commitment and record to fiscally responsible government, preserving neighborhoods, and balancing growth (away from excessive high density) has grown stronger and more reliable over the years, while we believe Holcombe’s focus on these critical issues has waned.

Mark Stohlman is singularly focused on the needs of Morrisville and is totally committed to addressing the day-to-day operations and policies of the Town.  Holcombe has become overly focused on using her mayoral position as a platform to address her personal views on national issues. Perhaps she has ambitions for higher office. If so, we believe this should be pursed on her own time without using her Mayoral position or the Mayor’s letterhead.

Whether it’s her participating in Moral Monday demonstrations (click to read articles), giving speeches denigrating State policies on gun control (click to view video), or promoting electric vehicles (click to view video), and regardless of merit of these issues, the Mayor’s primary focus should not be her personal agenda on national issues, which are not under the town’s control.  The considerable time she spends on these efforts is time away from the job of leading Morrisville.

Another major concern is that Holcombe’s partisanship and protests are also creating contention with important government partners, such as the State Legislature and surrounding communities.  In North Carolina, small towns are particularly dependent on joint funding and approvals involving State and regional government collaborations.

Morrisville may not be getting its share of funding and project approvals as a result of having our mayor camping out front of the Legislature holding a protest sign. Repeatedly publicly confronting the Legislature’s new gun laws surely doesn’t help either. This could explain why Morrisville has fewer greenways, parks, and more traffic congestion (the scarcity of badly needed improvement projects for Highway NC 54 underway by the State DOT is a prime example) than Cary and surrounding communities.

Further, Holcombe has used tax increases as her first response to Town budgetary goals and it appears she considers management and efficiency improvements as the last resort.  We believe this is absolutely backwards. We first became seriously concerned about Holcombe’s approach to budgeting in 2011 when she proposed a tax increase despite a projected budget surplus. Her official position was particularly troubling when she said: “The question is: do we present a rosy picture right before we propose a tax increase in 12 months.” – Morrisville Unsure How to Spin Its Budget News – Cary News – May 21, 2011.

Holcombe’s budgets for the past 3 years have proposed tax increases. Town spending has grown 22%. Staffing levels were not reduced during the recession (despite a major reduction in permits and projects) and Morrisville staff pay raises continued.  The private sector didn’t enjoy this “business as usual” approach and at the worst of the recession, the Town of Cary reduced spending by about 25%.  Only the hard work of other Morrisville Action-endorsed candidates helped keep Holcombe’s spending in check.

In his last year as Town Manager, John Whitson received a number of pay raises championed by Holcombe, despite her knowing that under his management the Town was doing such a poor job at routine planning and development services that contractors were successfully pressing substantial legal claims against the Town.  This type of legal claim is almost never successful, but the situation in Morrisville was apparently so bad that one settlement is already costing (click to read article) the Town and its insurance company $700,000, with possibly more claims and increased premiums to come.  We simply can’t understand why Holcombe was vigorously promoting pay raises to the outgoing Town Manager, who was leaving the Town with unprecedented and costly problems that were a direct result of his management.

Morrisville Action believes it’s time for a change; it’s time for someone we understand, know and trust; it’s time for Mark Stohlman.