Using his significant leadership experience in local and state government, state Sen. Mike Woodard, Trinity ‘81, hopes to improve city services, maintain a robust economy and keep Durham a welcoming city as mayor.
Woodard was the second-highest polling candidate in Durham’s primary municipal elections on Oct. 10, garnering 29.04% of the vote. He will face Durham City Council member Leonardo Williams in the general election on Nov. 7.
Originally from Wilson, North Carolina, Woodard is a 40-year resident of Durham who has held multiple administrative roles at Duke. He previously worked at the center of the Duke-Durham relationship, serving as an analyst for Duke’s Administrative Systems Management office. Woodard also worked at the Durham Technical Community College as an administrator and instructor for seven years.
Woodard currently represents District 22, which includes Duke and Durham, in the North Carolina Senate, in which he serves as the co-chair of the Life Sciences Caucus and works with “visionary enterprises” to establish partnerships that ensures “the future of our economy is rooted in innovation.”
From 2005 to 2012, Woodard served on the Durham City Council. During his tenure, Woodard helped to negotiate a deal to bring the Durham Performing Arts Center to the city and worked on neighborhood issues including transportation, economic development and public safety initiatives.
Beyond his city council work, Woodard has long been an active member in the Durham community, whether it be serving as a member on the City Capital Improvement Panel or working with the North Carolina Jaycees, a non-profit organization for “young active citizens.”
Woodard previously served as the president of the InterNeighborhood Council of Durham. He said that his experience of working with nearly 30-40 neighborhood associations provided a “broad perspective of what’s happening all across the community.”
If elected as the next mayor of Durham, Woodard has three priorities for Durham: making Durham a safer community, protecting the environment and building a more robust economy. Woodard aims to improve “basic city services that Durham residents count on,” including police, fire, sanitation and emergency medical services.
“My top priority is going to be making sure that our city services are maintained … to the extent we can enhance those,” Woodard said. “... When our sanitation workers went on strike a few months back, there was a city service that stopped for a few days. Our 911 call center is very short-staffed; the response time has decreased.”
To maintain a strong economy for Durham, Woodard wants to make sure that “economic prosperity is spread to all parts of Durham.” According to Woodard, Durham residents should have the opportunity to compete for new jobs in the economy and should be ready to take on such positions.
Another priority of Woodard’s is to focus on affordable housing solutions and improving growth and development for Durham residents.
Woodard believes it is important to “maintain the relationship between Duke and our local government,” citing his extensive experience having “been on the frontlines as an elected official, active citizen and Duke employee for years.”
Thinking back to his years as a Duke student, Woodard recalled hiking the Eno River and loving that, inspiring him to “want to continue to preserve those things” as mayor.
“I want Durham [to continue] to be a welcoming community for all people,” Woodard said. “... Whether you’re a lifelong resident, whether you’re just here for four years to get your undergraduate degree, that Durham continues to be that welcoming place and offers you great opportunities and great things to do while you’re here.”
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Amy Guan is a Pratt senior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.