District 1 challenger emphasizes youth

by Jordan Green

Daron R. Sellars, a 35-year-old candidate for the District 1 seat on Greensboro City Council, remarked that he has looked around the board room on more than one occasion, and found that he’s the only one of his kind in two different ways: He was the only black person — and the only young person.

Don’t get him started, if you don’t want to hear him out.

“We have an issue where we’ve got all these colleges and universities,” he said during a recent interview at Starbucks on Battleground Avenue. “Nobody’s reaching back to them. We educate them and let them leave. Everybody is always saying, ‘Young people don’t vote.’ They voted for Barack. I got calls from A&T students, one saying, ‘You inspired me to run for SGA president.’ That’s the next generation. It’s succession planning. Let them start on our boards and commissions. They could serve on parks and rec. I think we need to have an apprenticeship program…. People say, ‘You can’t make them vote. They don’t care.’ Then they never will. I’m glad Dr. King didn’t say that. We’d still be riding the back of the bus.”

Sellars took a phone call from a street festival organizer inviting him to make an appearance the following Saturday. He told her he would try to make it, but that he was also planning to hold a fundraising dinner that evening. As a measure of his confidence, Sellars has already started referring to incumbent Dianne Bellamy-Small as “my opponent,” even though he is one of five challengers in a crowded race seeking to clear the primary on Oct. 6.

The challenger took two rhetorical jabs at the incumbent. “I’m working for the people; I’m not working for staff,” he said. “My opponent, Dianne Bellamy-Small, works for the staff. I return phone calls. That’s another complaint I’ve gotten on my opponent. She doesn’t return phone calls. I’m not naming names, but I’ve had other elected officials tell me that they’ve handled issues for people who haven’t been taken care of by Dianne Bellamy- Small.”

Bellamy-Small dismissed Sellars’ criticisms. “I’m sitting at my desk right now, and I had 18 calls,” she said. “I filled the call, and those that need to go directly to community relations folks, I’ll forward them. Donna Gray and her staff will work through it with the constituent, and try to make it a win-win. Maybe I’ll make recommendations.”

As for the notion that she works for staff, instead of the other way around, Bellamy-Small responded that “it makes sense to have a positive relationship.” More can be accomplished working together than in an adversarial fashion.

Sellars cofounded 100 Black Men of the Triad with NC Rep. Earl Jones, who held the District 1 on Greensboro City Council before losing his election in 2001 to Belvin Jessup. Bellamy-Small and Jones have found themselves at odds over a number of issues.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Sellars said the top two issues that District 1 constituents tell him they care about are not public safety and economic development.

“Do you know the two questions they ask me about?” he said. “‘What are you going to do about the police department?’ And, ‘What are my issues on the White Street Landfill?’” Sellars said he considers the claims of racial discrimination within the department to be a matter for the current council. Instead, he’s concerned about current allegations of racial profiling made by citizens against police officers, saying, “It’s an issue that needs to be looked at.”

The White Street Landfill lies in District 2, but he said it’s a matter close to the heart of District 1 voters because many have family members who live there.

“Keep the White Street Landfill closed,” Sellars said. “These people are scared as hell about what’s going to happen.”