Elon University staff member Stephanie Bourland and Elon Community Church Senior Pastor Randy Orwig are running for two open town of Elon Board of Alderman seats this fall.

The Board of Aldermen consists of six members: a mayor, a mayor pro tem and four aldermen. The members of the Board of Aldermen are elected officials that serve at large and set policy for the town of Elon. They are elected in staggered terms of four years.

A call to serve

Growing up in a military family, Bourland never had a place to call home. That is, until she moved to the town of Elon nearly 20 years ago. After making friends and building a family in Elon, she thought it was time to serve the community.

“I felt like I had not done enough to give back to a community that has done so much for me,” Bourland said. 

The events on Jan. 6 at the Capitol building were also influential in her decision to run. Protesters stormed the Capitol building on Jan. 6 in an attempt to interrupt the counting of electoral votes from the 2020 presidential election. Bourland said watching members of Congress continue to do their jobs after the events of Jan. 6 inspired her to run for a municipal office in the town of Elon.

“When I saw that, I thought to myself, if those people can serve our country the way that they did, then I need to get up and do something for my town,” Bourland said.

Bourland calls Elon an “almost idyllic” community and said she loves living here because of the town’s residents, especially the Elon University students. After working at the university for the past four years, she knows them now as friends and people she can help, compared to when she was only a resident here. 

Even though she is a university employee, she doesn’t see serving the town as a conflict of interest. Instead, she said it gives her more insight.

“I see how smart the students are at Elon and what hard workers they are and how much they add to our community,” Bourland said.

Bourland’s platforms as an Alderwoman candidate include safety, affordability and inclusivity. 

After looking at the 2020 annual police report for the town of Elon, Bourland praised Town of Elon Chief of Police Kelly Blackwelder and said she’d like to see her work continue. The report discusses improving law enforcement training and education on implicit bias, de-escalation, racial equity and juvenile-minority sensitivity and having better internal accountability of officers.

“I think being well trained is a big part of making sure that our law enforcement is carrying out what they need to do in a proper way for all people,” Bourland said.

Additionally, Bourland said the caravan that came through downtown Elon made her want to further advocate for the safety of Elon University students and the town of Elon citizens. 

“The absurdities and the racial slurs that were yelled at our community and our students, something [about] that, just as it did for all of us, just hurt my heart and my soul,” Bourland said.

Another major component of Bourland’s campaign is addressing accessibility and affordability of public services. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate of the town of Elon is 22.7%. 

Bourland wants to make sure public services stay within a price range that works for the community. Bourland has also worked on various inclusivity projects for over 20 years.

Reaching out beyond downtown Elon is also a priority for Bourland. She wants to go out into communities she’s not as familiar with in Elon, talk to them and find out what their points of concern are. 

“It's something you don't think about when you're walking around our downtown or beautiful university, there are people that are struggling and we do need to find out what we can do to help them,” Bourland said.

If Bourland is elected, she will be only the eighth woman to serve as a board member for the town of Elon. 

Continuing work in the community 

Orwig is best known in the town of Elon as the Senior Pastor of the Elon Community Church, where he has been a senior pastor at the church since 2011. Now, Orwig said he’s running for a seat on Elon’s Board of Aldermen on behalf of the community, not himself.

“I really want this community to be able to excel and to grow, and I feel people need to step up to be able to do that and I want to be one of those people,” Orwig said.

Orwig said listening to people is one of the most important things he can do. As a pastor of a church, it’s his role to be there for people who feel left out or left behind. During Board of Alderman meetings, he wants to be representative of them. He said he would rather build off the vision of the town than come in with his own agenda so real progress can be made, rather than laborious actions with few results. 

“I don't feel like it's my place, especially as an Alderman, to say that the town is going to be this, this and this, I want to listen to folks,” Orwig said

Before running, Orwig wanted to make sure that serving as an Alderman wouldn’t take away from his commitments at the church.

Creating a vision for the town and following through on it is something Orwig said allows for a “great deal of dreaming,” and he feels like the dreams he has now have to become reality. He wants to work with town officials and staff to find places of growth and build off of them, but said it won’t be major and fast.

“We're not that kind of a community,” Orwig said. “I don't think we're even meant to be, since we're surrounding Burlington. I think Burlington is going to be that particular kind of placement, but we really have an important role to play, too.”

Along with growth, Orwig said the water cost issue is an important platform. To increase water affordability, he said a regional water source may be a potential solution because of the difference in savings for residents. Working closely with neighboring communities such as Burlington, Gibsonville and Graham is also something Orwig would like to pursue. 

“There is a vision to create a downtown in Elon, a bigger, better, downtown that we've had to draw people, not just the students, but the greater community here,” Orwig said.

He wants to make Elon a destination and has a dream with Peter Ustach ‘09, former owner of Pandora’s Pies, of opening a museum downtown. Orwig said he’s willing to put in the time and effort because he loves the Elon community and has fallen in love with it many times over the years.

“I just really love the pace, and I love the beauty of the area, and really loved the idea that the college represented a great deal of, I think, of a force for good and economic force,” Orwig said.

Coming together

Neither  Bourland nor Orwig have held government offices in the town of Elon before, and the two did not know each other directly before the Alderman election. They are both running in an uncontested election, meaning both candidates are guaranteed to be elected to the two open seats on Elon’s Board of Aldermen.

The benefit of not having a contested race is that Bourland and Orwig can spend more time listening to people and finding out their ideas for change rather than campaigning against one another. Both cited the Delta variant as a concern when it comes to canvassing.

Even though it isn’t a major election year, both Bourland and Orwig highly encourage the town of Elon to come out and vote.

Voting is set to take place on Nov. 2 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.