Durham City At-Large Council member Javiera Caballero is running for mayor in hopes of expanding the definition of Durham as a progressive city.
Caballero filed to run for mayor on Aug. 13. In the weeks that followed, she garnered endorsements from current mayor of Durham Steve Schewel, Durham Association of Educators and People’s Alliance.
Caballero was appointed as the first Latina Durham City Council member in January 2018.
As a council member, Caballero was an advocate of passing the largest affordable housing bond in North Carolina history and establishing the Community Safety Department created to ensure the right response team shows up in response to a 911 call. In 2019, she also helped start an immigrant legal defense fund—the second one in the state—according to her campaign website.
Before Caballero became a City Council member, she was a Montessori School educator, education consultant and Parent Teacher Association president. She was also heavily involved in the Durham Public Schools, where she tutored students while her children attended school there.
But deciding to run for mayor was a “big jump.”
“I'm a mom of three kids … so that was a huge kind of question: is this something I can take on when I think about all the other responsibilities in my life?” she said.
The answer to the question was “yes.”
“The city in the last four years under Mayor Schewel’s leadership has really expanded what it means to be a progressive city,” Caballero said.
She’s been a part of that effort as a council member and wants to make sure it continues.
Caballero is running a platform focused on affordable housing, community safety and sustainability. She plans to continue the affordable housing bond’s progress by analyzing Durham’s land use and zoning policies to bring the cost of market rate housing down.
She is also part of the Community Safety Department’s ongoing effort to find alternate solutions for issues that don’t require a law enforcement response.
“Even if it's a mental health crisis, even if it's just a fender bender, you're getting an armed police officer. That's not necessarily always the right response,” Caballero said.
If elected mayor, Caballero wants to make sure the work of the Community Safety Department—created in July—continues and that all 911 calls are answered with a suitable responder, be it a firefighter or a mental health professional.
Caballero also plans to continue the implementation of City Council’s resolution on global climate change by creating a fundable action plan for an equitable transition to carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy in city operations by 2050.
Caballero ultimately wants to make sure she has solid, reachable goals for her platform.
“We can have a plan, but if it's not implemented effectively, it doesn't really matter,” she said.
The importance of communicating with policymakers, experts and Durhamites is not lost on Caballero. During the creation of the immigrant legal defense fund, she made sure to speak with immigration attorneys and immigrant advocates before communicating her ideas to her fellow council members.
“It’s a two-fold process,” Caballero said. “First, you have to do the work in the community that is impacted or knows … and then you have to do the work with your colleagues so that they know why this is important to you, and what you're hoping the outcomes will be.”
Caballero “feels good” about all the support she’s received but said it will still be a race until the general election. She plans on working hard and being prepared to answer any questions Durhamites might have.
“That’s what campaigning is about,” she said.
But elected or not, Caballero is committed to continue working to improve Durham.
“I will be doing the work whether I'm elected mayor or sitting on council,” she said. “That doesn't stop for me.”
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Katie Tan is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.