By Kylie Marsh
Barbara Foushee has served on Carrboro Town Council before, but now she’s getting ready to be Carrboro’s first Black woman mayor.
After spending much of her time doing service work in the community as well as with her sorority Zeta Phi Beta, Incorporated, she gained a robust network of community members. In 2017, she was urged to take over an upcoming vacancy on the then Board of Aldermen (now Town Council).
There was also discussion in 2021 for a mayoral run, but Foushee knew she didn’t want to run against her colleague, current mayor Damon Seils.
“We work together so well,” she said. “And both Damon and Barbara on the ballot didn’t feel right to either of us,” she said. “People may want to vote for both.”
When Seils announced he wouldn’t be returning to the seat, Foushee thought about running and had thoughtful conversations with trusted advisors. She announced her mayoral campaign in May and began to reassemble her campaign team from 2021, preparing for another strong, competitive race.
“The opportunity presented itself,” Foushee said. “I kept being approached by people who would say, you know, ‘the opportunity is here, you need to run.’”
However, no one filed to run against her.
As for what Foushee plans to bring to the position, she says “the possibilities are endless.”
“My goal is to make sure the doors of the community stay open for all people to live, work and play in Carrboro,” she said. Foushee envisions herself as a vehicle for all community members to be heard in Carrboro.
“I know there may be people who may be intimidated to come to that council meeting or send that email, and I really want to be a voice for them,” she said.
Foushee is only the second Black person to hold the position of Carrboro’s mayor and the first Black woman ever to do so. She sees this as yet another example of keeping Carrboro moving forward for everyone. She also said she hopes to inspire others to lead, whether it be in the nonprofit sector or a political office.
As to why she ran unopposed, and why she’s only the second of two Black people to be Mayor, she believes the demands of the job may be the reason.
“I don’t think it has to do with race, really,” she said. “It’s hard, it’s time consuming, the responsibilities are greater than being on Council.”
Speaking of representation, Foushee stresses it is not just how someone appears on the outside that is important when it comes to leadership. What’s more important is getting to know the individuals, she said. Understanding lived experience, culture and how people show up are all important.
“It’s not just superficial; it’s about giving people the opportunity to show you who they are. There are others whose values don’t align with mine,” she said. “It’s just the first step of getting your foot in the door.”
Foushee comes from a family of trailblazing and civically engaged citizens, so one may say it runs in the family. Many of these community leaders are women as well, continuing in a long tradition of Black women being at the forefront of civic change in the nation.
Barbara’s husband, Braxton Foushee, has been a trailblazer in Carrboro for civil rights, and this upcoming December 13 will be the first Braxton Dunkin Foushee Day of Service in Carrboro in his honor.
As a teenager, Braxton became involved in the community, starting with escorting Black residents of Carrboro to register to vote. He later became a labor activist, fighting for equal pay and treatment for Carrboro’s Black workers. He participated in a sit-in at the Colonial Drug Store soon after the famous Woolworth sit-ins by the Greensboro Four. He was the first Black man to be elected to Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen (now Town Council), where he worked to drive infrastructural investments to Carrboro’s Black neighborhoods and staunchly opposed police brutality to Carrboro’s Black citizens. He currently sits on the Executive and Labor and Industry Committee for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP. He also continues to chair the Carrboro Planning Board.
Representative of North Carolina’s 4th congressional district, Valerie Foushee (D) has also served on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board and was also the first Black woman to be elected to the Orange County Board of Commissioners. She previously served on the Board of Directors of EmPOWERment, Inc., a local nonprofit that seeks to reduce housing insecurity in Orange County. She has also served in both the NC House and Senate at the General Assembly.
Paris Miller-Foushee serves as a Town Council member for Chapel Hill and works at the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service. She has previously served as Vice-Chair of the Town’s Community Police Advisory Committee and the Steering Committee for the Re-Imagining Community Safety Task Force. She has previously also served as Secretary of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP. She currently serves on the board of EmPOWERment, Inc.
With an impressive family surrounding her, it’s clear Barbara Foushee will be a powerful force for positive change as Carrboro’s mayor.
A former TLR correspondent from Durham, Kylie Marsh returns to writing for the paper, albeit from new digs in Charlotte. Her work has also appeared in QCity Metro. As a graduate of NYU, she writes about local issues of class, race and inequality. When not freelancing, Kylie is organizing for the rights of workers, women and the homeless in Charlotte.