Featured photo: (from l-r) Sharon Hightower, Felton Foushee, Goldie Wells, Cecile Crawford, Portia Shipman, LaToya Bernice Gathers
In Districts 1 and 2 of the Greensboro City Council, incumbents Sharon Hightower and Goldie Wells will face off against a number of incumbents to keep their seats this election season.
Early voting starts on April 28 and goes until May 17. The general election for the Greensboro City Council races will take place on July 26.
While the Greensboro City Council race is nonpartisan, Triad City Beat has included the political party that each candidate has registered under as noted on their voter registration.
The candidates are listed in order of last name; incumbents go first.
To find out which city council district you are in, visit here.
District 1 starts just south of Gate City Blvd. and stretches east down I-40W towards Sedalia and south towards Old Randleman Rd.
Sharon Hightower (i, D)
An incumbent with a mixed history on racial justice
While TCB did not receive answers from Sharon Hightower in time for publication, her history as a two-term incumbent shows her voting record and her priorities.
Hightower won her seat back in 2017 with overwhelming support, garnering more than 84 percent of the vote.
In a previous TCB piece, Hightower pointed to her work as the city council liaison on the Ad-hoc Committee on African-American Disparity as well as passing the city’s $15 per-hour minimum wage as efforts she’s made to close racial disparities in Greensboro. She also mentioned wanting to continue being involved with the city’s Minority Women Business Enterprise program which provides opportunities for minority contractors.
Hightower was also pivotal in the passage of Juneteenth as a citywide holiday, an act that was finalized in 2020.
When it comes issues of policing, Hightower had had a measured response. In the previous TCB piece, she rejected the notion of defunding the police, stating, “When we talk about defunding the police, it’s really not ‘get rid of the police’ because we need policing. I think it’s really a conversation around, can we do both? Can we have policing, but also have the resources that the community really needs to strengthen their community, whether it’s more community recreation centers, more mentorship, more education.”
She expressed support for Cure Violence as well as racial-equity training for police as well as investments in affordable housing, job training and mental-health services as alternatives to defunding law enforcement.
In 2020, in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing, both Hightower and Goldie Wells — the incumbent for District 2 — opposed a written-consent policy that was suggested by the city’s criminal justice advisory board. The policy would have required police to receive written consent from people for all searches. Both rejected the idea, arguing that a piece of paper wouldn’t lead to systemic change.
In 2019, Hightower supported an independent investigation into the death of Marcus Deon Smith but has remained fairly silent on the issue since then.
Felton Foushee (D)
A political newcomer who was born and raised in GSO
First time political candidate Felton Foushee was born and raised in Greensboro. He grew up in the Greenfield Homes community and graduated from Dudley High School before attending UNCG. Eventually, Foushee found work at the Hayes-Taylor YMCA and became the Director for the Black and Latino Achievers program there. Currently Foushee works as a history professor at UNCG and as a racial equity and engagement officer for the Racial Equity Learning Community.
With his varied background, Foushee told TCB that he’s running for office because he is “informed in a way that centers history and people.”
If elected Foushee said he will focus on alleviating issues of economic disparity in the city, particularly those that face the Black community in southeast Greensboro. To do that, Foushee said he would create pathways to homeownership and encourage investment in Black communities through development.
“I would like to somewhat invert the idea of incentives for businesses and engage with them as to how we can incentivize the communities they will affect and from which they will draw their workforce,” Foushee said. “From improving modes of transportation.”
Better public transportation, creating environments that encourage healthy food choices, developing shared public spaces and providing wages that enhance the lives of employees are also high on his list of priorities.
When it comes to the issue of police reform, Foushee stated that he supports the release of body-camera footage to the public as well as de-escalation training as well as an “impeccable screening process.”
Timothy Kirkpatrick (R)
TCB did not receive answers to candidate questionnaires for Timothy Kirkpatrick and at the time of publication, he did not have a candidate website.
District 2 covers most of the eastern portion of the city, starting around Church Street and stretching east and northeast towards Keeley Park, all the way up to the Lake Townsend area.
Goldie Wells (i, D)
Incumbent with the most political experience
TCB did not receive responses from Goldie Wells, but like Sharon Hightower, her record from her two terms as city councilmember gives voters a glimpse into the kind of representative she will be in the future.
Well has served in District 2 since she was appointed to city council in 2017 after Jamal Fox resigned from the post. Wells also previously represented the district from 2005-09.
She is a graduate from NC A&T State University and a former educator with Iredell-Statesville Schools, Wake County and Guilford County schools. She also served as the president of Saints Academy and College.
Wells played an instrumental role in founding the Renaissance Community Co-op and helped get the White Street Landfill closed prior to her time on council.
In 2018, Wells supported the installation of a metal detector in a credit union which sat between the co-op and a Family Dollar. Those who opposed the measure at the time said it reinforced negative stereotypes about commercial real estate that serves Black residents. However, Wells pointed to homicide statistics in District 2 as reason for the safety measure.
“It was a lot of negotiation to get a bank over here,” she said in a past interview with TCB. “I’m pleased that they came. I’m pleased that they’re using safety measures so that we don’t add to negative statistics.
Also in 2018, Wells opposed the solicitation ordinance that replaced the city’s panhandling ordinance after then-city attorney Tom Carruthers said it wouldn’t stand up to a constitutional challenge. At the time, she said that the ordinance discriminated against panhandlers directly.
Like Hightower, Wells opposed a written consent policy in 2020, arguing that it wouldn’t stop racial discrimination.
“I think everyone should know their rights, but having them sign a paper is not going to stop [police] from stopping Black folks,” she said. “It sounds like we almost have a better policy than most places. I don’t see why we need to make that drastic change…. We need to have police that have a change in heart.”
On her campaign website, Wells lists improving safety, eradicating food deserts and increasing health care awareness as some of her top priorities. She also mentions working with developers to build more affordable housing.
Cecile Crawford (D)
A progressive candidate with a focus on affordable housing
Cecile Crawford has touted herself as the people’s candidate, expressing more progressive views than incumbent Goldie Wells. As part of her priorities if elected, Crawford noted making sure families have affordable housing, addressing root causes of violence and increasing the minimum wage past just $15 per hour.
“I think I’m the strongest candidate because at various points in my life I found myself where many residents currently find themselves: navigating the challenges of parenthood, serious illness or the struggles to earn a liveable wage,” she said.
She mentioned that many residents are just one illness, injury or financial emergency away from disabling debt and that she can empathize with that issue. She pointed towards building up the local economy by supporting local businesses, ensuring rental housing is financially viable, as well as setting up an eviction legal defense fund and a right to counsel for renters. She also supports the right to first refusal, a policy that would ensure that landlords and property owners must offer tenants the opportunity to buy the property first if they are looking to sell. This policy is a direct response to the plight of many of the residents have been forced out of their homes at the Jamison Mobile Home Park off Hiatt Street.
Many of Crawford’s answers to questions led back to the issue of affordable housing. Keeping recent graduates in the city, ensuring the immigrant population is well taken care of and looking out for lower-income populations all led back to issues of affordable housing stock.
“I believe that housing is a human right and will unceasingly fight to provide avenues for transitional housing for those caught in a system that further harms people when asking for help,” she said.
When it comes to police reform, Crawford is one of the most progressive candidates in the city council race. She supports giving the city’s criminal justice advisory commission more power to investigate police conduct and said she supports the CAHOOTS model of policing, which is an alternative response where mental-health providers respond to certain calls without armed police. Currently the city employs a co-response model.
She told TCB that she also supports diverting police resources to address violent crime as well as having pre-arrest diversion programs like those in Durham and Atlanta so young adults are less prone to committing crimes.
LaToya Bernice Gathers (R)
Sole Republican with left-leaning policies
While LaToya Bernice Gathers is the only Republican candidate in the running for the District 2 seat, many of her answers were indistinguishable from her Democratic counterparts. In her professional career, she has worked for global nonprofits such as Doctors Without Borders and will use that expertise if elected. As a medical health professional, Gathers stated that she believes poverty, education level and housing are the three social determinants of health. She noted that increasing area income, combatting climate change, prioritizing housing affordability and investing in higher education institutions were high on her priority list.
When it comes to public safety, Gathers noted that she supports the police department and would work to recruit officers to fill vacancies. She also stated that the city should increase workforce development programs for young people to interrupt violence.
Gathers is involved in the Triad Pride Performing Arts as the treasurer and the Guilford County Planning Commission Board.
“If elected, I would have an open-door policy to any person,” she said. “I believe more transparency is needed in meetings and how money is spent. Budgets should be able to be reviewed by anyone and laws and decisions are open to discussion.”
Portia Shipman (D)
Nonprofit expert focused on bolstering Black communities
Like Cecile Crawford, candidate Portia Shipman is pushing herself as a community social justice advocate in this race. A former member of the city’s zoning commission and redevelopment committee, Shipman has years of serving the city under her belt. She was also the regional director of the state’s NAACP for three years and is the founder and executive director of the Sherri Denese Jackson Foundation, an organization that advocates for domestic violence awareness and prevention.
“People know me and can trust that I will work hard to get the answers they have been waiting to receive,” Shipman said. “I’m not afraid to call out the disparities and challenge the status quo.”
Racial inequality is the biggest issue facing the city, according to Shipman.
“It’s been evident for quite some time that specific neighborhoods are simply undeveloped and are overlooked,” Shipman said. “Certainly, in District 2, those neighborhoods are predominantly low-income and communities of color, specifically Black and Latino.”
While she didn’t give specific policies as to how to improve these neighborhoods, Shipman did give specific answers when it came to the issue of policing.
She said that “positive policing and trust is another main issue” facing Greensboro and that “all police are not bad.” Still, she mentioned not being happy with the Marcus Deon Smith settlement, stating that “the city of Greensboro got off easy with this settlement. I am not happy about the result.”
In her response about how she would work with immigrant and refugee communities, Shipman gave a perplexing answer. She said that while the city should be welcoming to newcomers, that by doing so, the Black community “suffers more when this happens.”
“Let us find a way to make room for our immigrant friends and make sure to take care of our permanent residents as well,” she said. “To improve the quality of life for all communities is to make sure that other communities are not left out, neglected or abandoned.”
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