Featured photo (l-r): Zack Matheny, Chip Roth, Tammi Thurm, Robert Bodenhamer and Tony Wilkins
UPDATED (4/8/2022, 10 a.m.): This article has been updated to clarify Robert Bodenhamer’s stance on mandatory vaccinations for employees.
Candidates for the Greensboro city council races eagerly await the opening of the polls for early voting on April 28. In both Districts 3 and 5, there are three candidates running. In District 3, currently represented by Justin Outling, Democratic candidate Chip Roth faces off against Republican former city council member and developer Zack Matheny and Republican Bill Marshburn for an open seat. Outling, who is running for mayor this year, is not running for re-election in District 3.
In District 5, Democratic incumbent Tammi Thurm will also face off against two Republicans: long-time political organizer and former council member Tony Wilkins, and political newcomer Robert Bodenhamer.
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.
The primary election season opens for early voting on April 28 and goes until May 17. The general election for Greensboro city council this year takes place on July 26.
To find out which city council district you are in, visit here.
District 3 starts in central Greensboro just north of Friendly Avenue and stretches north along Battleground through Greensboro Country Club and Country Park to the edges of the city to include all four lakes — Lake Jeanette, Lake Townsend, Lake Brandt and Lake Higgins.
Bill Marshburn (R)
Ring-wing extremist with history of threatening city council
This is Republican Bill Marshburn’s first time running for office.
In 2008, Marshburn made the news after threatening to shoot members of city council. As reported by the News & Record, Marshburn was arrested outside of the city council building downtown after he called a senior city planner and threatened to come to the city council meeting the next day and “shoot all the council members.” Marshburn was charged with nine counts of communicating threats — one for each councilmember — and one count of disorderly conduct.
Marshburn’s outburst was in response to plans to annex his home by the city.
TCB did not receive a response from Marshburn about his arrest.
Much of Marshburn’s responses to TCB’s candidate questionnaire focused on global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which Marshburn asserts is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public,” and the Ukrainian crisis.
In addition to conerns about increasing crime and rising prices, Marshburn condemned the media’s coverage of the pandemic, stating that “they have completely misinformed the public through falsehoods and zero reporting of any dissenting information on COVID-19 and the lockdowns.”
As of Monday afternoon, more than 6 million have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 980,000 of them in the US.
Expanding on his ideology, Marshburn appeared to condone police’s behavior in both the George Floyd and Marcus Smith cases, stating that “the safest way to restrain someone is to restrain more than apparently necessary. Restraint protects both parties.”
He also expressed racist views towards immigrants, noting that he would jail and “try to find out the history” of “illegal aliens.” He made an exception for asylum seekers.
Zack Matheny (R)
Former city councilmember with ties to downtown
Republican Zack Matheny was first elected to the District 3 Greensboro city council seat in 2007, a position he held until he left office in 2015 to become president of Downtown Greensboro Inc., a position he still holds. In 2014, Matheny unsuccessfully ran for the US House District 6 seat, placing fourth in the Republican primaries.
Since his run the first time around, Matheny has become a well-known entity within the Greensboro community, particularly in the downtown area. When asked about whether he would continue to work for Downtown Greensboro Inc. if elected, Matheny responded that neither he nor the city attorney, Chuck Watts, have found a direct conflict of interest.
“I will continue as president of Downtown Greensboro, Inc.,” Matheny said in an email. “Outside of the DGI budget vote, there are not many votes that I would have to recuse from.”
In a previous interview with TCB, Matheny pointed to both Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson and former councilmember Michelle Kennedy as examples of city councilmembers who have run nonprofits while on council without any issues.
When asked if he would show bias towards projects in the downtown area, Matheny said that “all city council members have projects that they work particularly hard on. Having represented District 3 for almost eight years, I know firsthand what constituents expect as their representative. I have worked in th city for a long time and have helped all parts of the city and will continue to do so.”
When it comes to his greatest accomplishments during his time on council almost 15 years ago, Matheny cited the development of businesses such as the Tanger Center and the Greensboro Aquatic Center, Honda Jet, Haeco, the Toyota megasite and downtown revitalization. He also told TCB that he worked “across all districts to progress Greensboro forward, including the Renaissance Center and Revolution Mill.
In November, Matheny told TCB that he wanted to see the old News & Record building — one of the largest and most expensive properties in downtown Greensboro — turned into a large Riverwalk.
His understanding of economic development is what gives him a leg up from the other candidates, Matheny argues. That’s why he sees working with developers as integral to the growth of the city.
“Greensboro is growing and needs private firms to partner with for smart strategic growth,” he said. “If you turn your back on any one group, you will hurt strategy. We can and should all collaborate.”
If re-elected, he said he would focus on strategic vision, housing, jobs, public safety, future growth and smart leadership.
As a Republican, Matheny said he is a “long supporter of the Greensboro Police Department” and that he has a great relationship with officers and Police Chief Brian James.
Still, Matheny supported some form of police reform in theory, stating that the city should “have a strategic focus on mental health, which is beyond the police department and is an area in need of reform.”
Chip Roth (D)
Political strategist with connections to Washington DC
Both Chip Roth and his wife Denise Roth have extensive experience in politics. Though this is Roth’s first time running for office, he has previously held a leadership position within the Small Business Administration after appointment by former President Obama; his wife, Denise, was appointed to head the federal government’s General Services Administration in 2015. In 2018, the Roths returned to Greensboro, where Chip started a business-strategy consulting firm. Using this experience, Roth told TCB he would build a “new Greensboro” if elected to council.
His priorities include creating strong economic development and good jobs. He points to recent successes such as the contract with Toyota and Boom Supersonic as examples of where the city is headed. Because of his experience at the SBA, Roth said he has experience advocating for small businesses as well.
“I learned much about how businesses can access badly needed capital,” he said. “This perspective is key to helping small businesses, the chief job creators in Greensboro, succeed.”
Roth has also worked for the Teamsters union, a position he said helped him to understand the needs of first responders. He said one of his main concerns is the high crime rate. In order to address that, Roth said he would raise officer pay to help recruit more officers.
When it comes to police reform, Roth stated that he wanted to “make sure that our police department and our criminal justice system is colorblind.”
As the husband to a Black woman and father to a mixed-race son, Roth said he is a supporter of forming use-of-force policies, redefining public safety and combatting systemic racism within the department. He also told TCB that he supports community policing and developing trained personnel to respond to mental health-related incidents.
Looking at the future of Greensboro, Roth said he wants to ensure that “Greensboro’s roads… adapt to a future where digital linkages support driverless and fully automated vehicles” because the city is a “key hub for logistics and distribution firms.”
District 5 covers the entire western portion of the city, starting in the north near Cardinal Country Club, making its way down towards the airport and then south towards High Point and Jamestown to include the Grandover Resort.
Tammi Thurm (D, i)
First-term incumbent looking to build on accomplishments
Incumbent Tammi Thurm, the only Democrat in this race, wants to keep her seat, which she first won in 2017. During that election, Thurm beat Tony Wilkins, who is running to take back his seat this year, by about 10 percentage points in the general election.
As an incumbent, Thurm mentioned her work on the city’s first permanent supportive housing project as well as the passage of the non-discrimination ordinance in 2021.
The biggest issues facing the city, Thurm said, are affordable housing, public transportation and public safety. To ensure the last item, Thurm said she would invest in embedding mental-health professionals within the department to work with officers on calls. A program like this already exists in Greensboro and is expected to expand after receiving funding from the state. Expanding on her answer about her thoughts on police reform, Thurm said that the move is not about reallocating funds from the police department but rather making sure they have the tools and training they need to be effective. Thurm also expressed support for moving sworn officers away from areas such as traffic enforcement and traffic accident investigation.
In 2020, Thurm and former councilmember Michelle Kennedy were the most vocal supporters of a written-consent policy for police searches that was suggested by the city’s criminal justice advisory committee. In the end, the proposal failed.
Thurm told TCB that the city as to do more to help the immigrant and refugee communities in Greensboro and suggested creating a curriculum through Guilford Works, an organization that helps businesses hire and train workers.
When it comes to utilizing the many higher education institutions in the city, Thurm had a multi-point response.
She said she would like to see the city create small grant opportunities for research projects that address council priorities, hire student interns into city government, contract with university faculty for surveys and research rather than with consulting firms, and create mentoring opportunities by matching students with city staff or vendors.
When it comes to economic development and how it will impact the city, said she wants to prioritize ensuring minority and women-owned business entities land contracts and expanding the city’s transportation system so workers can get to their jobs easily.
Robert Bodenhamer (R)
Political outsider who wants to speak for the average citizen
Robert Bodenhamer is a political outsider who touts his lack of political experience as a plus in his campaign.
“I’m running to hopefully speak for the average citizens who have been overlooked and ignored due to where they may live or their financial situation,” Bodenhamer wrote to TCB.
Bodenhamer has served as an EMT and a firefighter for 25 years and worked in the emergency room at Wesley Long Hospital as well. His time on the frontlines impacted his worldview and has helped him to empathize with different groups of people, he said.
“By working in these areas, I have worked with people from all walks of life from the very fortunate to the homeless,” Bodenhamer said. “I’ve worked with all ethnic groups and understand how each feel. I have been fortunate and have had to live from paycheck to paycheck and go to the food pantries to feed my family, so I can work with all the city has to offer.”
As a first responder himself, Bodenhamer said he supports his fellow police officers but that if they are accused of wrongdoing, he would be the “first to throw them in the fire.”
As a solution to the increased tensions between police and communities of color, Bodenhamer suggested a more transparent hiring process.
“Maybe if the community had some sort of input on the hiring process, relations would improve,” he said. “Citizens have a say on their elected officials, why not have a say in on who polices them?”
Like some of his Republican colleagues, Bodenhamer expressed concerns over vaccine requirements, and asked whether large companies that have recently begun to call Greensboro home, like Toyota and Boom Supersonic, are requiring employees to get vaccinated.
“If an employee doesn’t comply with vaccinations, what will their employment status be?” he asked.
UPDATED (4/8/2022, 10 a.m.): “Out in Texas some employers were firing employees who refused to take vaccinations then bringing in their own people from California to replace those who were fired,” Bodenhamer explained. “I just don’t want that to happen here.”
He also said that councilmembers should look at not just what the companies provide in terms of service, but also what they contribute to the community at large.
“Do they plan to donate to needy organizations?” he asked.
To increase collaboration between the different universities, Bodenhamer suggested a large festival — hosted by NCA&T State University and Bennett College — that would celebrate the Feb. 1 sit-ins every year.
“This festival would feature Black and Brown artists and allow them to set up and sell their works,” he said. “It would also feature singers, poets, comedians, food trucks. Admission would be $5 and one nonperishable food item and the money would go to the Boys and Girls Club to keep young people out of trouble. The food item could go to local food pantries for the less fortunate.”
And while expressing his opinions on different subject areas, Bodenhamer ended his response by stating that once elected, officials should work on representing those who got them into office.
“Once a person gets elected to a public office, their personal opinions should no longer count as much as the people they represent,” he said. “Government should go back to the basics: for the people by the people.”
Tony Wilkins (R)
Former city councilmember with strong police support
Tony Wilkins is the former executive director of the Guilford County Republican Party and a former city councilmember who served from 2012-17, when he lost to Tammi Thurm by 10 percentage points. Now Wilkins has re-entered the political realm to take back his old seat. When asked what sets him apart, Wilkins directed his response against Thurm. He called Thurm “the anti-police faction” on the council and mentioned her actions such as voting against federal funds for the police department and against take-home cars for officers.
“For those reasons the 600 members of the Greensboro Police Officers Association and four former GPD police chiefs are endorsing me this election, along with former Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes,” he said. “This is a clear indication she has let her own police department down during her time on council. For an incumbent to not get the support of her own police department speaks volumes.”
In an email, Thurm responded to Wilkins’ statement by stating that she didn’t support the take-home cars at the time because she didn’t know where the $5 million for them would come from but that she did support Chief James’ request for increased compensation for officers instead. However, when in November, the vote for take-home cars was brought up again, Thurm said she voted in favor of them.
As a candidate who has aligned himself closely with law enforcement, Wilkins failed to answer the question about whether or not he supports police reform. Instead, he stated that his biggest concern as a candidate is getting crime under control and maintaining a strong police department by supporting the police chief with money and tools.
When it comes to his past accomplishments as a councilmember, Wilkins pointed to the renaming of High Point Road to Gate City Boulevard and helping to fund the Out of the Garden Project.
If re-elected, Wilkins expressed his goal of making Greensboro the “most business-friendly city in the state.”
Looking towards the future of Greensboro, Wilkins said that the city “must figure out a way to keep recent graduates here by improving our everyday quality of life and making this the city they want to raise their family in while providing vibrant entertainment venues for the younger crowd.”
He also wants to redo the city’s logo from the “old floppy leaf logo” to “something more modern and upbeat.”
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