Changes in the Social/Political Climate for an Openly Gay Candidate in North Carolina (or at Least in Chapel Hill)
The January 27 Mary Renault gathering will introduce us to two milestone figures in NC political history, Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Town Council member Lee Storrow.
When he was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council, Mark Kleinschmidt was only the fifth openly gay person in the history of North Carolina to be elected to office. Although born at Scott Air Force Base in Belleville Illinois, Chapel Hill has been his home since his studies at UNC-CH. Graduating in 1992, he taught at a Charlotte high school and was chosen “Teacher of the Year” by his peers in 1997, at which point he returned to UNC.
A lifelong career in public service then turned to the law. After getting a law degree, in 2000 Mayor Mark joined the Center for Death Penalty Litigation, for which he represented indigent clients in NC who were facing execution. In 2006 he became Executive Director of the Fair Trial Initiative, also representing capital defendants.
Meanwhile, in 2001 he was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council, and in 2009 he was elected mayor, the first openly gay mayor of the town. In his years in the job, he shepherded Chapel Hill 2020, a comprehensive planning process for long-term development, into existence. He also has created an advisory board which helps handle civilian complaints about police. And along the way he served the NC American Civil Liberties Union as President in 2008-09.
Unlike Mark our other presenter, Lee Storrow, was blessed with being a native North Carolinian. The newest member of the Chapel Hill Town Council (and also the youngest), was born in Asheville, where his interest in advocacy began early. When he was in high school; he got involved in creating a development plan for Asheville; this gave him solid background when he began working towards a political science degree at UNC (and became president of the UNC chapter of Young Democrats).
Lee is currently the managing director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health. Before his work with the Alliance, he was a development assistant at IPAS, a Chapel-Hill-based organization that focuses on building women’s health and reproductive rights worldwide. And before being elected to the Council, he served on the Initiating Committee for Mark’s Chapel Hill 2020 plan.
From these two figures we will learn more about politics and being gay. The gathering will end with a question & answer session. Occasions for exchanges like this are rare opportunities; please join us.