Nov 7, 2023 - News

Triangle election 2023: Durham and Chapel Hill choose new mayors

side-by-side headshots of new Durham mayor Leonardo Williams (left) and Chapel Hill mayor Jess Anderson (right)

Incoming mayors Leo Williams (Durham) and Jess Anderson (Chapel Hill) Photos: City of Durham; Town of Chapel Hill

Durham and Chapel Hill both elected new mayors and new councils in Tuesday night's election.

Here's who won:


Leonardo "Leo" Williams, a current city council member and owner of Zweli's Kitchen and Ekhaya, will be the new mayor of Durham, after soundly beating state Sen. Mike Woodard.

  • Williams will replace Elaine O'Neal, who served one term.
  • He received more than 63% of the votes and Woodard got 36%.

Of note: Williams' spot on the council will now need to be filled through an appointment.

Newcomers Nate Baker and Carl Rist, along with incumbent Javiera Caballero, earned seats on Durham City Council by finishing as the top three at-large vote-getters.

  • Baker, who has served on the Durham Planning Commission, earned 23% of the votes.
  • Caballero, who has been on the council since 2018, came in second.
  • And Rist received the third-most votes.

That means current council member Monique Holsey-Hyman — who was accused and then cleared of extorting a developer this year — will not be returning to the council after placing fifth.

Why it matters: The new Durham council will have to navigate an ongoing debate over rules on development, policing priorities and how to fund demands from city workers for raises.

Chapel Hill

Jess Anderson, who was elected to Chapel Hill City Council in 2015, will be the new mayor of the town, replacing four-term Mayor Pam Hemminger.

Why it matters: Anderson defeated fellow council member Adam Searing, who was accused of spreading misinformation in his campaign and vowed to reverse a recent zoning change of the town's single-family neighborhoods if elected.

  • Anderson received nearly 59% of the votes and Searing got 41% in the nearly $100,000 race — a new fundraising record for the Chapel Hill mayoral election, The News & Observer reported.

Incumbent Amy Ryan and three new members — Melissa McCullough, Theodore Nollert and Elizabeth Sharp — were elected to town council.

Go deeper: Find the results of other municipal elections in the Triangle here.


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