As Alderwoman Emily Sharpe walks through downtown Elon, she is greeted by the smiling faces of community members. She often stops in the downtown shops and restaurants to say hello to the owners. It’s this “neighborly inclusion” that Sharpe loves about Elon, and something she hopes to work on if she is elected mayor in November.
“I want people of all ages to feel welcome,” Sharpe said. “I want other people to have that feeling, and I want other people to feel like when they walk down the sidewalks of Elon that there are smiling faces, saying hello to them and waving.”
After thinking about how she would like to see the town of Elon grow, Sharpe decided to run for mayor to continue making the town friendly, safe and inclusive.
“I love this little town. It’s almost like what is your kid going to be when they grow up and asking yourself what kind of adult will your kid be,” Sharpe said. “I feel the same way about the town... What is the town going to be when it grows up? I'm excited to see that all happen.”
Running for mayor
Sharpe was elected to the board of aldermen in 2017, becoming the seventh woman to serve on the board in the town’s 125 year history. If elected, Sharpe will be the second female mayor of the town of Elon.
Mayor Jerry Tolley announced he will not run for reelection at the June Board of Aldermen meeting. Tolley has served in the town of Elon since 1983, when he was first elected to the board. He was re-elected as mayor in 2005 after the first female mayor, Beth Schmidt, concluded her three decade long career.
“Anytime you've had a leader for a really long time, there's always a lot of questions about what will change,” Sharpe said. “I don't really think there's gonna be this like overnight change, and Mayor Tolley has done a great job in his role. He's been a real advocate for the town, so I just want to continue down that road.”
Being a community member is important to Sharpe and is something she hopes to bring to the forefront of her campaign. Whether through attending more downtown events or holding town hall meetings to hear the voices of residents, Sharpe said she wants to connect with the town.
“I want to be down here, I want to talk to people, I want to hear from people,” Sharpe said. “If they're not going to come to us, we're going to go to them.”
In addition to serving the town of Elon residents, Sharpe said she wants to maintain a good relationship with the university. One way she hopes to connect with students is through a renter’s program, where she can meet with students and discuss what it means to be a temporary resident in a permanent town.
“I want to keep working toward improving the relationship between the town and the university, which is really at probably the best place it's ever been right now,” Sharpe said. “Even though [students] are here temporarily, you're welcome here. You are one of our neighbors, you are one of our residents, and let's find ways to make sure we maintain that.”
Overcoming obstacles in the campaign
While mask and stay-at-home orders are no longer in effect in North Carolina, Sharpe said there is still a lot unknown about in-person campaigning right now. When she campaigned for the Board of Aldermen, she attended events in-person and met with community members face-to-face. Sharpe also said another potential challenge is running in a non-partisan race during such a partisan time.
“I don't want to see partisanship coming into a nonpartisan race and a nonpartisan role,” Sharpe said. “I truly believe that our board and our mayor does what's best for the town without that partisanship being involved, so that's important to me is that we keep that out of it.”
As a current Alderwoman, Sharpe is able to vote in regular session meetings and set policy for the town of Elon. The mayor does not have a vote like aldermen members do. The mayor will only vote if there is a tie. Sharpe said not being able to be as outspoken as she is now will be a challenge initially.
Three seats open
In addition to the mayoral race, two board of aldermen seats will be up for election. Voting will take place on Nov. 2, 2021 and both early and by-mail voting will be accepted. Students, faculty and staff who are registered to vote in the town of Elon are eligible to vote in the election.