Cary, NC – Ya Liu is Cary’s newest Council Member, elected to District D in the 2019 municipal election. We talked with Liu about her priorities as a Council Member and what she’s learned about this new position.
Balancing Growth in Cary
Liu beat incumbent Council Member Ken George and challenger Beth Friedrich with 57.5 percent of the vote to win the District D seat, and in her swearing-in speech on Thursday, December 12, 2019, she said running and winning an election in Cary was hard.
“We had volunteers who were very enthusiastic and we turned people out,” Liu said. “In our district, we had 24 percent turn-out, which is very high for a municipal election. I’m humbled by the whole experience and that people would trust to vote in this new person.”
In her campaign, Liu made growth a key issue as she talked about Cary’s increasing population putting a strain on both the physical infrastructure of Cary as well as its social services.
“Many citizens are concerned about it. They’re experiencing more traffic, they’re seeing trees cut down,” Liu said. “Cary is not built to accommodate this many people.”
Liu said this growth can’t be stopped and this growth is fueling Cary’s economy, which she said people want. Instead, Liu said to strike a balance, the town needs to focus on the Cary Community Plan, which is also based on citizen feedback.
“We need to do more under the plan to identify the areas where citizens say we can make it more dense, more vertical,” Liu said. “It’s not a simple solution and we will have to continue to use citizen input.”
When it comes to concerns over the environment and traffic, Liu said one solution she is pushing for is more public transportation.
“It’s good for the environment and it’s a way to solve issues with traffic and roads,” Liu said.
Another top issue for Liu is caring for senior citizens in Cary, and Liu said she was the only candidate who focused on seniors.
“A lot of senior citizens know their care is very expensive,” Liu said. “How can we serve our senior population? What services and care can we provide?”
Setting an Example
Liu has been involved in community organizing and volunteer work in the past but said she did not think she was ready to get into electoral politics, at least not at this point in her life, but many people in her life encouraged her to run.
“It takes sacrifice but I want to inspire more women and young parents to run, and I want to set an example for my kids,” she said.
Liu is also the first woman of color on the Cary Town Council and she said she thinks that perspective will be helpful.
“The town is very diverse; more than 20 percent of people here were born outside of the country,” she said. “I’m excited to bring a diverse perspective and to be a bridge to that community.”
Since being elected, Liu said she’s been meeting Council Members and staff to learn about the job from them, and she said she’s excited to join a council with experience.
“I appreciate what council and staff do more now. The council is always welcoming and available and I’ve been having weekly meetings with [Town Manager] Sean Stegall,” she said. “I’m impressed how they all work together. The discussions at the work sessions are healthy. We disagree, but we still make that final product.”
Liu’s first Town Council Meeting was on Thursday, December 12, 2019.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos by Michael Papich and Lindsey Chester.