Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver


by Laurie Paolicelli

At the 2020 Black Lives Matter vigil in Hillsborough, Weaver said she wants to put an end to what she called “systemic prejudice that lines our systems from top to bottom.” 

For Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver, community has always been at the heart of her governance philosophy. It’s a philosophy that reflects her undergraduate experience at Prescott College in Arizona, a small liberal arts school with a mission for advancing environmental sustainability and social justice.

“I was interested in environmental issues as a child and attending Prescott College gave me an opportunity to sharpen my awareness and use my voice,” she says. “Climate change is here. As its impact intensifies over time, it is the children and young people of today who will face the worst effects. As a parent that adds to my concern.”

Weaver completed a master’s in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She served on the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners for six years prior to running for mayor, unopposed, in 2019 and replaced longtime Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens. She’s married to Attorney David Neal who works with the Southern Environmental Law Center. They have two children.

“Jenn is without question an impressive community leader who is knowledgeable about the intricacies of local government,” says former mayor Tom Stevens. “Her human side shines through with authenticity and caring, evident in her public commentary throughout the pandemic. What is also wonderful to see is the fun side of Jenn, for example when she and her entire family dress up together on Halloween as movie characters from Star Wars or Hunger Games,”

Weaver was sworn in for her first term as mayor in December 2019 and two months later a global pandemic hit, followed shortly in the wake of George Floyd’s death by the biggest uprising for racial justice the country has seen in many years. That uprising only strengthened her commitment to racial equality.

In recent years Hillsborough has included more explicit commitments for racial equity in their values; passed a resolution against HB2; passed a resolution designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day; approved the request of residents to change their street name from Thomas Ruffin to Lydia Lane; responded to the George Floyd uprising with a resolution including multiple actionable items for the town to address racial equity; funded and approved flying flags for Pride month for the first time in Hillsborough history; and passed a non-discrimination ordinance to include LGBTQ+ residents and employees including in private businesses.

Hillsborough’s economic strength lies in its strong community of independent business owners, formidable reputation as an artist community, a long and treasured local history, and stellar outdoor amenities. It’s one of North Carolina’s top visitor destinations.

Weaver believes that given Hillsborough’s location along the two major interstates of the Triangle and proximity to three major North Carolina universities as well as a thriving small farm agriculture ecosystem in northern Orange County, well-positions Hillsborough to capitalize on spin-off business in each of those sectors.

But for Weaver, a community is about so much more than this. “It’s my hope that Hillsborough and all of Orange County continue its focus on affordable housing. Americans face widening inequality, and, for many, an inability to comfortably pay for housing as wage growth stagnates and housing costs continue to climb.”

“In Hillsborough we believe affordable housing is not a handout: it’s a hand up. It gives families the ability to reimagine their future without the high cost of rent.”

Weaver is proud of North Carolina’s HOPE program. The State Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions Program (HOPE) provides rent and utility assistance to low-income renters experiencing financial hardship due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. “We are grateful for our partnership with Orange County, the Town of Carrboro, and the Town of Chapel Hill to meet the housing needs of residents during this challenging time.”

Weaver looks forward to improving Hillsborough through healthy water systems, increased broadband, and innovative comprehensive planning, but she doesn’t let exuberant futurism eliminate the importance of honoring, telling, and preserving all facets of the Hillsborough story. She’s a realist with an idealist’s vision.

“Jenn’s love and care for the community enabled her to smoothly follow the path blazed by former Mayor Stevens,” says Kathleen Ferguson, who serves on the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners. “She further navigated us through the first waves of a deadly pandemic with grace. Throughout it all she has held true to the Hillsborough vision of a vibrant, prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable community where all are welcome and can find a place to call home.”

Pictured With Hillsborough Town Board Member, Mark Bell, at a Chamber led trip to Boulder, CO to gain knowledge about innovative ideas and programs.

Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

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