Profile: Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht
Cary, NC – I can’t say I’ve ever been convinced that a politician was simply in politics to do the “right thing” until I met Mayor Weinbrecht.
He’s like the other people in your neighborhood. He works a full-time job as a programmer (at SAS), is devoted to his family and his church, volunteers for activities in the community and loves Cary.
When talking with him, his sincerity is obvious: he just wants Cary to thrive. His words aren’t contrived, there are no “talking points” and he is forthcoming with his opinions. The Mayor responded to my e-mail request to interview him in 11 minutes.
Harold hails from Augusta, Georgia, but came to Cary as a child with his family later, attending N.C. State University where he studied computer science. Harold married his wife, Belinda, in 1987 and raised two daughters here in Cary.
Harold started a web site in 1997 called Citizens for Balanced Growth. In 1999 he was named to the Town’s Planning and Zoning Board.
The Mayor was elected to the Cary Town Council in 1999 as an At-Large representative. He became our Mayor in 2007 with 58% of the vote, while being outspent in his campaign reportedly by a 6-1 margin.
The Mayor ran on three basic premises: balanced growth with available infrastructure, reducing school overcrowding and protecting the environment.
Making Government More Transparent
Harold believes that there is a newly found openness in Cary’ governmental processes. He writes a blog, is televised regularly on Cary Matters(Cary TV 11), and ALL of his e-mail to and from the Mayor is published to the media.
Who Do I Call?
He feels “we need to do a better job still of educating the public on how our local government works”, citing the example of roads in need of repair and that some are Cary’s responsibility and some are DOT’s. He wants to have a simple, intuitive system that responds to citizen’s requests and problems that can tell the people of Cary simply “who do I call?.”
Growth and Taxes
Growth now pays for itself. Mayor Weinbrecht told me that when he took office there were areas of development where 90% of that development was being funded by the taxpayers. He felt this was “just not fair”. He is proud of the Cary’s relatively low tax rate and wants to keep it that way.
“Developers were meeting with me early on after my election and the situation was tense. I told them I was for balanced growth, self funding growth and development, not stalling it altogether. Clearly there are areas in downtown and other place like Waverly Place that are in need of a ‘lift’, ” he told me.
Harold went on to explain that the economy has surely hurt our progress. He talked about the residents of Cary that are still going through hard times, and the people still on fixed incomes. “There are lots of interesting things we can do, but raising taxes now is not the right answer,” he said.
Cary is now looking for a “Downtown Manager”, a position that will report to Ben Shivar, our Town Manager. The role will be to effectively make use of our downtown area as a more desirable place to do business and visit.
Harold explained, “One of the problems we face downtown is that the land is owned by many in smaller parcels and we will need to get agreement and collaboration across many parties to make this happen. Maybe Walker street gets some development – appropriately – and Academy becomes a historic district.”
He clearly wants to see Cary continue it’s path toward being a better environmental steward within its own borders, while maintaining the same level of service to its citizens.
He is proud of the progress of Cary regarding “green businesses” – and the Gold LEED certified businesses we have in town. He mentioned McDonald’s (on Kildaire Farm Road) and Siemens. Harold talked about our recycling programs and the accolades for our biofuel plan. And he wants to do more.
The town continues to spend a great deal of time debating and planning alternative modes of transportation, reducing traffic while striving to keep the lifestyle and environmental impact the same or better than it is now.
The Mayor told me he starts every day at 5:30 a.m. with 20o crunches. He is an avid tennis player, but doesn’t get out as much as he would like. He still has to get to work on time at SAS. His days go on past dinner-time every day. Usually he goes home and goes right to bed.
His job as Mayor involves many planning meetings and conferences and he wishes he could be more than one place at one time. As an example, he mentioned the concurrent scheduling of Cary high school graduations and his regrets over the ones he had to miss. He certainly has misgivings about the time he has to spend away from his family as well.
“I represent Cary as an ambassador – and a listener – and it’s my job to be outside the walls of Town Hall too.”
He said that the Cary Town Staff is the “best in the State,” running off all of their names. They help him manage his priorities and his calendar. And he told me “I would trust Ben Shivar with my life.” He mentioned that we have problems, but there is a sense that any job “can be done when we are working together”. Like every good leader, her gives credit to the people surrounding him.
The hour and a half I spent with him flew by. He easily goes from subject to subject and has lots of creative ideas. He’s open, honest, easy-going and a good listener too. You can read more about our Mayor and the State of the Town of Cary here.
“In executing the duties of my present important station, I can promise nothing but purity of intentions, and, in carrying these into effect, fidelity, and diligence.” – George Washington (and the Mayor’s signature line on all of his e-mails).
I will make the corrections!
Mayor Weinbrecht is easily in my list of “Top 10 Men I Most Admire”. Matt, I think that your assessment is spot-on. Mayor Weinbrecht is genuine, intelligent, sincere and dedicated.
He works really hard for Cary. I believe that we all owe him, and his family, a big “thank you” for giving up other things he/they could be doing to enable Harold to serve us.
Thanks, Mayor Weinbrecht, and thanks, Matt for a great article (although what’s up with the ultra-contrasty photos? :-).