Anointed District 2 candidate builds bridges

by Jordan Green

Goldie Wells, a staunch opponent of the White Street landfill and an advocate for city aid to bring Wal-Mart to northeast Greensboro, has been campaigning like the heir apparent.

As soon as she announced her candidacy for the District 2 city council seat in June, the district’s current representative, Claudette Burroughs-White, offered her endorsement. Burroughs-White, who has served since 1994 when she was appointed to replace soon-to-be NC Rep. Alma Adams, asked Wells to run for the District 2 seat back in 2001.

‘“She certainly has been active in the community and championing the same causes I have: the redevelopment and revitalizing of east Greensboro, closing the White Street landfill,’” Burroughs-White said.

Wells is running against Ed Whitfield, Toni Henderson and Lewis Byers for the District 2 seat.

An Edenton native who spent much of her professional life as a teacher and school administrator in Greensboro, Wells returned from a job as principal of a boarding school in Mississippi in the late 1990s. She soon found herself thrust into a position of community leadership when a neighbor stopped by her house to tell her the Winn-Dixie grocery store on Phillips Avenue was closing. The neighbors formed a committee that would become known as Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro, and Wells was named the chairwoman.

The organization didn’t stop Winn-Dixie from closing and has never found a grocery to replace it, although a Wal-Mart Supercenter with a grocery section is expected to open in the former Carolina Circle Mall about three miles away.

A campaign by Concerned Citizens to shut down the White Street landfill was more successful. Following a 2001 decision, the city plans to start sending municipal solid waste to a transfer station in northwest Greensboro in July 2006; the White Street landfill will continue to accept construction and demolition materials and compost.

With the endorsement of a popular councilwoman in hand and solid community activism credentials under her belt, first-time candidate Wells is doing what any savvy politician would: shoring up other bases. On Sept. 26, she arranged an audience with the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. The neighborhood association board fit her into their agenda, and she made a quick dash through her biography and answered questions for about ten minutes.

The Fisher Park Neighborhood Association is one of more than half a dozen organizations Wells has addressed, including churches such as Providence Baptist Church and East White Oak Baptist Church, groups such as People to People and, of course, Concerned Citizens. She estimated that her campaign has distributed about 300 yard signs. Wells said her 15-person campaign committee has sent out mailers with information about how to get rides to the polls, and plans to set up a phone bank to get out the vote before Election Day.

Fisher Park, as one of the most prestigious tracts of real estate in Greensboro, is something of an anomaly for District 2, which is predominantly African American and contains large swaths challenged by underemployment, sparse retail options and high crime.

Wells took care to hit the right notes to the neighborhood group gathered at Holy Trinity.

One of the board members asked her how she felt about historic district neighborhoods.

She responded by noting that she took part in the effort to save Dudley High School.

‘“To lose our premier black high school ‘— that’s a concern,’” she said.

Another asked her to address what he perceived as a rising tide of gang activity.

‘“We’re in a fog,’” Wells said. ‘“We’re saying it doesn’t even exist in Greensboro. The first thing you do is make people aware of it. They have signs. We’re seeing things we’re not even aware we’re seeing.’”

One of the board members said the neighborhood association had been pleased with Burroughs-White’s representation, and Wells noted the current councilwoman’s endorsement of her candidacy.

‘“I have strengths in being able to communicate,’” she said. ‘“I know it takes five votes. I have the ability to get people to listen to me and get them to follow me. I believe you can do a lot more from negotiating and working together than fighting.’”

She told the board members of the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association that she wants Greensboro ‘“to be a city where every citizen can have the best quality of life that can be afforded.’” In a private interview earlier in the day, she articulated a sharper call for economic equality.

‘“It’s not human for those who have not to share,’” she said. ‘“If you live in one room or you live in a mansion you should be considered a valuable person.’”

Wells said she is in favor of budgeting more money for police so they can respond more quickly to calls. She’d like to see the city’s public transit system extend routes and hours of operation to better accommodate residents who don’t own cars. But the main plank of her campaign platform is economic development.

She said she’s aware of the criticism that Wal-Mart is a low-wage employer that has been accused of discriminating against women, but she believes the new store will serve as an anchor for other businesses such as Ruby Tuesdays that she said pay higher wages.

‘“If people have work and they’re productive they won’t get into mischief,’” she said. ‘“Then they can afford a place to live.’”

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