Q #10 Candidate’s leadership style

        10.  How would you characterize your leadership style?  Give an example of a successful project or process you led or participated in.  What did you learn?

George Cianciola   I believe in keeping an open mind, listening to what people have to say, and then trying to build consensus within a group.  However, when it becomes clear that true consensus is not possible I believe in trying to find some common ground(s) by which opposing opinions can still be brought together to forge a position that everyone can live with.

I believe that the Special Transit Advisory Commission (STAC) and the Chapel Hill 2020 (CH2020) process, both of which I co-chaired are good examples.  The STAC was a 29-member commission, with members representing six counties of the RTP area, which forged the beginnings of a regional transit plan for the area.  Although true consensus was not always possible, a plan emerged from a year’s worth of meetings in which everyone got at least part of what they wanted.  I think CH2020, with a significantly greater number of participants, posed a different sort of challenge.  Nonetheless, at the end of the process there emerged a vision of what Chapel Hill should look like over the next decade that a majority of citizens could embrace.

Sally Greene   Thoughtful, collaborative, inclusive, and informed. To fulfill my 2003 campaign promise of enacting an inclusionary zoning ordinance, I proposed to set up a stakeholder task force. Membership included interested citizens, developers, nonprofit housing providers, a real estate professional and a real estate attorney, and one other Council member as co-chair. I learned as much as I could about the way inclusionary zoning ordinances worked around the country, and how they could work under NC’s legal constraints. I consulted with planning staff in Davidson, NC, which already had such an ordinance. We brought in local attorneys and land use professors to advise us. We brought positions to the table, assessed trade-offs, and reached common ground.

After the task force concluded its work, we still needed professional help to bring the ordinance into formal shape. First we hired an out-of-town consultant, who only consulted with us once by telephone. His result was not well received; it was as if he had ignored the task force’s work! We tried again with a local consultant who respected the format and the substance of the work, and he knew the community. Much better result.

Ed Harrison   In four words, low key and deliberate. It’s not my style to come into a community committee, give an oration on how the group is doing, or might be doing, and then leave. I try to have a large number of systematic and intentional phone conversations with the full range of stakeholders on an issue. In a land use case, it’s best to do this early on in a process, because the SUP process eliminates almost all stakeholder communication for Council members.

In the public’s hearing, I try to get key issues on the record for all parties to hear, and then listen carefully to any reaction from involved parties.

The most memorable recent example of this approach was my leadership role in forcing the relocation of both a major future transit alignment (rail or rapid bus), and a major future road, away from both the state-significant Little Creek Natural Heritage Area and Meadowmont. The impacts to the latter were far more severe than had been contemplated in the late 1990s; the impacts to the former had not even been considered until I brought them up starting in 2008.

I had (and have) the multiple roles of Council member, regional Transportation Advisory Member, Triangle Transit Trustee, and plant community ecologist. I worked with many in all four categories to establish a major priority shift in a regional long range plan. What I learned (again) is that plans are not necessarily cast in stone if the facts – and committed people – show that they can be changed.

Loren Hintz   I listen, analyze and try to create consensus of the group. If consensus is not possible I want to make sure everyone understands the rationale of minority opinions and that everyone is polite. I was a member of the Fordham Blvd Safety Task Force. We had town staff support, university pedestrian safety consultants, and citizens from the neighborhood. We worked together to come to a series of recommendations for improvements to the intersections but also how to improve pedestrian safety around town. I used my position on the Neighborhood Association Board to explain to our neighbors the plan. I repeatedly talked to the Town Traffic Engineer and the Town Council to advocate for timely implementation. Eventually the lighting, pedestrian walk and sidewalks were installed. The Bridge/Tunnel was placed on the town priority list. I learned that it is difficult but not impossible to get DOT to agree to some nontraditional installations. I also learned how expensive relatively simple changes cost and how something like a bridge is beyond normal budget. I also learned that unless citizens continually remind staff and Council about our research, it often is not incorporated. (I recently shared with the Obey Creek Compass Committee members our pedestrian safety research.)

Gary Kahn   I am not afraid to say what’s on my mind by going to Town Council meetings.  I addressed the Town Council on the cell phone ban, Yates Building, bus sign ads, Obey Creek and Southern Village Hotel.  I learned how Chapel Hill works.

Paul Neebe   I have two different leadership styles. One is to empower people do their jobs and find great people to do those jobs. When this is unsuccessful, then I take over to find those wonderful people and if possible do their job until suitable replacements can be found. When I joined the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board we had several vacancies and a problem of rarely having a quorum.  This hindered our ability to be effective.  Staff was unable to change the rules, so that we could just have a majority of members and call that a quorum.  Consequently I spoke every bicycle rider that I saw when driving around and told them we needed them on the Board.  Now we have a group of wonderful people.

I could also elaborate on music projects that I have done which encompasses many skills that can be transferred to all aspects of life and government.

Maria Palmer   I believe in facilitative leadership. I practiced this as a group co-chair for Chapel Hill 2020 with great results. I try to listen to all sides and work on the points where we agree and build from there.  I learned that we agree more than we disagree, and that we can find better solutions through compromise than we initially brought to the table.

Amy Ryan   In general, I’m most comfortable working collaboratively with others in trying to reach a solution that is acceptable to the group as a whole.

This approach was very successful during the organizing phase of the Central West process, where I helped to lead the meetings where the community drafted their recommendations to Council for the framework of the Central West process.

I’ve also been a leader during the main phase of the Central West process, as one of the steering committee co-chairs.  This new process is much more complex than the organizing phase and been more demanding of me as a leader.  We have a group of 17 very diverse town stakeholders, and we face the difficult task of making hard, specific decisions about change in the area.

I have tried through my leadership to be open-minded and listen to all the different stakeholders and weigh all the different trade-offs we must consider. The Central West process has taught me about how important it is to make people feel heard, and how challenging it can be to keep a group working effectively when there are so many different stakeholders and so many difficult trade-offs to be weighed.

D.C. Swinton     I would describe myself as a strong, attentive leader who incorporates the opinions of my peers into my decision making. I do the “boring, dirty work,” delegate responsibilities, and hold my peers accountable. While in South Carolina, I was a member of the Palmetto Environmental Action Coalition, a statewide college group that focused on educating the public and  the protection of South Carolina’s natural resources. In 2009, we collaborated with the Coastal Conservation League and the League of Conservation Voters to fight the establishment of a new coal-fired power plant along the Pee Dee River. The coastal customers of Santee Cooper were to foot the bill with a rate hike, with low-income and minority communities suffering from more mercury in their water and sulfur dioxide in their air. In this effort, I went door-to-door to collect support for hearings, organized conference calls discussing PEAC’s plan of action, and personally spoke out against the plant at a Myrtle Beach hearing. With our hard work, Santee Cooper canceled its intentions.


At this time, I do not have much knowledge regarding this particular Town subject. However, I do believe that all future development of Chapel Hill lands must be environmentally sustainable.


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