Bob Hartwell is the latest contender to join Winston-Salem’s 2024 city council race. The Northwest Ward seat, currently held by outgoing Democratic Councilmember Jeff MacIntosh, is up for grabs next year. MacIntosh is bidding farewell to city hall and will not run for re-election in 2024.

Hartwell is a current member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and served four terms as a Democratic state senator in Vermont. 

Hartwell told Triad City Beat that he advocated for passage of Vermont’s 2009 Marriage Equality Act by working with State House members to override Governor Jim Douglas’ veto of the bill, passing it into law. This made Vermont the first state in the country to allow same-sex marriage through legislative action instead of a court ruling, according to the New York Times.

A former labor attorney, Hartwell moved to the city in 2017 with his wife Wendy, a literacy tutor. The pair had intended to end up in Florida, but fell in love with North Carolina.

Since then, Hartwell has become active within the city. He’s currently serving his second term on the Recreation and Parks Commission.

A focus on environment, citizen involvement and public safety

One of Hartwell’s biggest concerns is the environment. In Vermont, he was the chair of the State Senate’s Natural Resources and Energy Committee. 

Hartwell thinks MacIntosh has done a great job with housing and transportation, and wants to build on that, but also feels that the city as a whole needs to pay more attention to the environment.

“They’re not focused enough. We’re not focused enough,” he said.

He’s concerned about “how many trees we destroy that we don’t replace.”

Hartwell has been personally knocking on doors to talk about his campaign. He’s close to reaching 700 houses.

“We’re so involved with social media. What I don’t want to lose is that personal contact with people,” Hartwell said, “ I think we owe it to them.”

City planning is really close to Hartwell’s, well, heart.

“I think that what we do with the land says a lot about what we do with people,” he said.

So he’s pushing for more citizen involvement in the government.

“In the planning function I think we should have another educational program,” Hartwell said, adding that this could “show people how this process works and how they can participate.”

“I just don’t think people get the say,” Hartwell said. “They’re becoming the voiceless.”

Public safety is a top concern for Hartwell and cited the officer shortage the city is currently facing. As of November, the Winston-Salem Police Department had 114 vacancies.

“I bring this up because it’s not just about the money. We’re paying police officers on par with other cities,” he said.

Greensboro shells out $55,000 as starting pay for their officers while Winston-Salem pays $52,500. Both cities significantly raised their starting salaries for police officers this year.

“I think they’re making progress on public trust,” Hartwell said.

“If people believe that the police department is…not the enemy, and that people like Chief [William] Penn and senior officers… are really working hard to make this a community-related agency that is respected by the general public,” Hartwell said, adding, “I think we’ll start to get more police officers because they’ll see that there’s public support.”

“I think this police department is really on the ball, I really do,” he added.

Additionally, Hartwell is thinking about violent crime, mentioning that he wants to eradicate gun violence but firearms are everywhere. 

“It is almost impossible for local authorities to control that. So they deal with the consequences,” he said.

“This can’t go on like this,” he added.

“I’m really interested in this job because you can do interesting things, you can talk about interesting stuff,” Hartwell said. And he recognizes that change requires teamwork. “You’ve got to try to work it through with your colleagues and each of us has a different ward and our own set of interests, but I think there are issues of commonality. The issues don’t respect ward lines or congressional lines or state lines or anything. The issues don’t care about borders.”

View Hartwell’s website here.

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