Low-profile councilwoman keeps in touch with constituents

by Jordan Green

Trudy Wade, the incumbent candidate for Greensboro City Council in District 5, has missed three candidate forums.

The two most recent fell on a week she was out of town for professional training. That doesn’t appear to have bothered constituents in the city’s southwest rim, who have turned to her for help with everything from crime and parks to traffic.

“She calls me at the house; it’s not like I have to call her,” said Tico Wallace, who started a community watch program in the Lamrocton neighborhood near Smith High School. “She calls me and says, ‘How are things going? Do you need anything?’ This is not at election time. This is all the time. I’ve been very, very impressed with her.”

Kathleen Sullivan, an Adams Farm resident, conveyed the candidate’s apology for missing an Oct. 12 candidate forum hosted by the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress. Sullivan said that prior to Wade’s election in 2007, her neighborhood was not well represented on city council.

“The city did add additional speed limits and crosswalks,” she said. “Anything that you’ve seen as an improvement in Adams Farm, she’s been involved with. I do believe she’s a very good advocate for the southwest corner.”

Sullivan added that Wade has worked hard to get a new park for the district on Hilltop Road.

Laura Jackson, who founded the Ardmore community watch program and who chairs the membership committee of the neighborhood congress, was Wade’s constituent before city council district lines were redrawn last year.

“I pointed out to her that we had been waiting for some time to get a park bridge put in,” Jackson said. “I think that was in motion before, but I think she greased the wheels, and she did step in and try to help. That should be done hopefully by next April…. It’s helpful to have city council people on your side, one whole third of our neighborhood cannot reach the playground without going up and down the creek bank. That can be dangerous, especially in the winter with the ice.”

Jackson also credits Wade with establishing a High Point Road Business Alliance early in her term, something she and others had attempted unsuccessfully to accomplish.

While Wade’s responsiveness to constituents is the key to her support within the district, the councilwoman may be better known for her successful crusade to oust former City Manager Mitchell Johnson and her scrutiny of the police department. That earns her points, too, with residents like Jackson.

“Most everyone in the city is interested in getting our good police department back,” Jackson said. “There’s been too much disruption there. While the police do a good job, they need to know that officers that have violated rules will be properly disciplined, even dismissed. I think that undermines police morale when it doesn’t happen, and it compromises the trust of citizens.”

Wade supported a motion to fire Johnson three months into her term. More than a year later she and her allies assembled the five votes necessary to make it happen.

Wade’s role in Johnson’s departure and her handling of the police controversy have not won her universal appreciation.

The councilwoman is currently a codefendant with the city in a lawsuit by dozens of black police officers alleging racial discrimination. The officers accuse Wade of maneuvering to have their names published in The Rhinoceros

Times to scuttle a settlement offer. The names were released as part of an Annual Certification Report submitted by the police department to the US Justice Department that was provided to Wade and Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer at about the same time.

Wade, who could not be reached for comment for this story, has denied the officers’ allegations, stating that she did not know the plaintiffs’ identities at the time of Hammer’s request, and that her own request was made “in an effort to ascertain the nature and extent of contracts authorized by the Greensboro city manager without specific review or approval by the city council.”

Wade’s voting record reflects a fiscal conservative with an independent streak.

She voted to approve the city’s budget in June after persuading fellow council members to abandon a water-rate hike. She supported a proposal by Councilman Mike Barber to create a police review board with subpoena power, but the council ultimately dropped the idea after making some modifications to the current complaint review committee. She voted with the majority in a split decision to ask the NC General Assembly to bring the city attorney under direct control of city council, but no action was taken at the state level.

Wade was on the losing end of votes to purchase the Canada Dry property and the Coliseum Inn, to grant tax incentives to Ozark Automotive Distributors and medical device manufacturer ConvaTec, and to annex three subdivisions near McLeansville.

“I think she does her homework,” said Trudy Adkins, a resident of the Sedgefield Lakes neighborhood. “There’s some knotty problems in the police department. It takes a lot of time and digging to understand them.”