Featured photo: Back row, L-R: Hugh Holston, Goldie Wells, Nancy Vaughan, Tammi Thurm, Zack Matheny, Front row L-R: Yvonne Johnson, Nancy Hoffman, Marikay Abuzuaiter, Sharon Hightower
Members of a city council make and enact changes for cities at the local level. In Greensboro, the mayor and eight city council representatives meet twice a month to make legislative decisions. Keep reading to learn more about the mechanisms of local government.
How are city council members elected?
Greensboro City Council elections are nonpartisan; the nine council members are elected by the public every four years. While the Mayor and three council members are elected at-large and act as representatives for the entire city, the remaining seats are represented by members from each of the five districts. The Mayor and all council members serve four-year terms and there are no term limits. To find out which city council member represents your district, visit greensboro-nc.gov/government/city-council.
The last general election was postponed in November 2021 due to redistricting delays and was ultimately held in July 2022. Current council members will serve abbreviated terms until the next election in 2025.
What do city council members do?
During meetings, city council members consider and vote on items that have been placed on the consent agenda, public hearing agenda and general business agenda. The mayor manages the meetings and sets the agenda. According to the city’s website, agenda item requests must come from “either a Council member or a City department employee,” adding that a member of the general public would need to work with one of those people in order to get an item on the Council agenda.
The consent agenda is used for mass approval of items that are routine, have been pre-discussed or do not require individual discussion. However, a council member can request that a particular item be removed from the consent agenda and voted on separately.
The public hearing agenda is a space where members of the public can comment on current issues involving the city, and during the general business agenda council members discuss and vote on individual issues presented on the agenda.
How can the public get involved?
Members of the public can attend meetings in person at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of every month in the Katie Dorsett Council Chamber, located on the second floor of the Melvin Municipal Office Building, or they can stream the meetings live on the city’s YouTube page.
A public comment period is held at the first meeting of the month. Members of the public may sign up to speak at a meeting by 6 p.m. the night of the meeting, and can submit their comments to council members about a topic by 5 p.m. the night before a meeting. City council agendas can be found at greensboro-nc.gov/government/city-council/council-meetings. Members of the public are not required to be residents of Greensboro in order to speak at a meeting.
Current GSO city council members:
Mayor Nancy Vaughan started her career on council in 1997 as a representative for District 4, serving two terms until 2001. Vaughan returned to council in 2007 as an at-large member, and has served as mayor since 2013 after unseating the one-term mayor and former at-large council member Robbie Perkins.
In July 2022, Vaughan retained her role in a close mayoral race against former District 3 representative Justin Outling, garnering 43.1 percent of the vote to Outling’s 41.7 percent.
Vaughan is a registered Democrat and attended Fairfield University.
Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson served from 1993-2007 as a city council member and was named Mayor Pro Tem for six of those years. The role of Mayor Pro Tem belongs to the candidate who receives the most votes among the three at-large council members. In 2007, Johnson became the first Black Mayor of Greensboro, but was ousted by Republican challenger Bill Knight in 2009. After reclaiming her council seat as an at-large member in 2011, Johnson also reclaimed her title as Mayor Pro Tem.
Johnson is a registered Democrat and attended Bennett College, a historically black liberal arts college for women in Greensboro. Johnson is currently the longest-serving member of city council.
Council member Hugh Holston was appointed to the at-large position in 2021 following Michelle Kennedy’s departure from council to head the Housing and Neighborhood Development Department. Holston was unanimously selected by members of the council and retained his seat in the general election in 2022.
Holston is an alumni of UNC-Chapel Hill and had previously served as the chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Council member Marikay Abuzuaiter assumed office in 2011. In the 2022 general election Abuzuaiter garnered 20.1 percent of the vote whereas fellow at-large members Johnson and Holston received 25.2 and 15.7 percent, respectively.
Abuzuaiter is a Democrat and attended Greensboro College. In the past she has been embroiled in controversy as TCB co-founder Eric Ginsburg reported that she acted as a confidential informant for the Greensboro Police Department.
Council member Sharon Hightower has represented District 1 since 2013. The district starts near downtown and stretches eastward, Gate City Boulevard runs across the north end of the district. Hightower defeated Democratic contender Felton Foushee by a wide margin in the 2022 general election.
Hightower is the president of North Carolina Black Elected Municipal Officials, a statewide organization of current black elected officials.
A registered Democrat, Hightower attended East Carolina University and works as a real estate paralegal.
Goldie Wells won a seat on council in 2005, serving for two terms until 2009. Wells returned to office in 2017 and prevailed in a close race against progressive challenger Cecile Crawford in 2022. District 2 covers much of the eastern portion of the city and extends toward the area surrounding Lake Townsend. Wells earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Hampton University and North Carolina A&T State University as well as a doctoral degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Wells is a registered Democrat and daughter of the late civil rights activist Golden Asro Frinks.
Elected in 2007, council member Zack Matheny is in his fifth term as a representative of District 3, which is traced on the west side by Battleground Avenue. The district also contains the downtown area, and is outlined in the east by Church Street. Matheny was named president of Downtown Greensboro Incorporated in 2015, resigning from council to accept the position after serving four terms as a council member. Matheny returned to the seat in 2022 while remaining president of DGI.
A registered Republican, Matheny’s political aspirations extended beyond Greensboro in his bid to run for Congress in North Carolina’s 6th District in 2013. Matheny did not advance past the Republican primary. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University.
Council member Nancy Hoffmann has represented District 4 since 2011. The district begins near the downtown area and stretches northwest. A registered Democrat, Hoffman defeated GOP-backed challenger Thurston Reeder in 2022 by a sweeping margin.
In 2021 Hoffmann was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to the North Carolina Local Government Commission. The commission of nine members is responsible for addressing issues in local government finance. Hoffmann’s term on the LGC will expire on June 30, 2025.
Hoffmann holds degrees from Winthrop University and the University of South Carolina.
Council member Tammi Thurm is serving her second term on council as the representative for District 5, which covers the western section of the city and the area around the GSO airport. The representative claimed former council member Tony Wilkins’ seat in 2017. Wilkins had previously served in the role of executive director of the Guilford County Republican Party and had been on the Council since his appointment in 2012 following former council member Trudy Wade’s ascension to the North Carolina State Senate. Thurm and Wilkins faced off again in 2022 which resulted in Thurm’s reelection to a second term.
A registered Democrat and graduate of UNC-Greensboro, Thurm is a senior level finance executive who has worked as the chief financial officer of Listingbook and Capsule Group.
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