Election could shift demographics on Apex Town Council

aramos@newsobserver.comOctober 28, 2013 

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— This is the only Wake County town without a woman or an African-American on its governing board. Neither demographic has served on the Town Council in over a decade.

But on Nov. 5, voters will choose among candidates who could change the fabric of the Apex Town Council.

Three seats on the six-member board are up for election. Currently, all members are white men, mostly Republicans. Three of the new candidates are women.

But don’t look to voters, or to the town’s demographics, for lack of diversity on the council. The cause: few women and minorities have run for office in Apex.

In the last 11 years, no African-American or other minority has filed. During that time, two women have run for office, according to election records.

So for the first time in about a decade, voters have a choice among a slate of candidates who could bring about a demographic shift that includes race, gender, age and political affiliation.

Only two incumbents are vying to keep their seats – Gene Schulze and Terry Rowe – so at least one seat is guaranteed to have a new face.

Apex’s population is made up of 51.4 percent women and 7.6 percent African-Americans. Registered voters are predominately female in Apex. Of the town’s 26,892 voters, 53 percent are women.

The three women on the ballot are Jennifer Ferrell, Denise Wilkie and Nicole Dozier, who is African-American.

“I hear people say, ‘I’m so glad you are running,’” said Dozier, a paralegal with the N.C. Justice Center. “I think the Town Council is overdue for them to reflect the diversity of opinions and experiences of the people who live here.

“It’s time – not because I’m African-American or a woman. I don’t see what I bring currently represented on the council. I’m a working mother, I work with seniors, and I work with special-needs populations.”

Wilkie, a high school teacher, agreed the council needs gender diversity and new viewpoints.

“They’re ready for a woman to be on the board,” Wilkie said of voters. “They want a different perspective.”

If a woman is elected, it will be the first time a female has served on the Apex Town Councilsince 2001, when Christine Hilt’s term ended and she did not seek re-election.

Since Hilt, two women have launched campaigns for local office and lost. Ann Lassiter ran in 2005, losing by 64 votes to Schulze. Margo Bills ran in 2009 and 2011, losing by 43 votes and 200 votes, respectively.

If Dozier is elected, it will be the first time since 1993 that an African-American served on the Town Council. Clarice Atwater, a business owner, did not seek re-election after her term ended, after serving 12 years in office.

The upcoming election could also bring a political shift to the board.

If Dozier and Ferrell are elected, they would join Councilman Bill Jensen to create a Democratic voting majority.

The average age of council members could also change. Currently, Scott Lassister is the only councilman under 40. Two new candidates are younger – Chad Price, 34, and Ferrell, 35.

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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