For all their grousing about growth and issues du jour — sidewalks, streetlights, recycling — Pinehurst residents are fortunate; they live in a well-run municipality.

The village, though Moore County’s largest incorporated community with 17,000 people, is one of the safest in the nation. Its low tax rate is the envy of its peers. The village has a professional staff whose work wins national awards for everything from solid waste collection to firefighting to financial management.

Yes, Pinehurst is growing and grappling with all that entails. There are matters ahead of it that will require hard decisions by its five-member council. The village must: rewrite its zoning ordinance to align with a new land-use plan; determine a sustainable future for library services; plan and build a third fire station; and work well with others.

That last point is key. Pinehurst must possess a strong collaborative spirit within and outside its borders to chart progress for all of Moore County.

That last point weighs heavily in The Pilot’s endorsements for Pinehurst mayor and two new council members. Today, we focus on mayor, a race that features veteran Pinehurst leaders Claire Berggren and John Strickland. We endorse Claire Berggren.

Both Are Capable

Both Berggren and Strickland served single four-year terms on the council. Strickland ran for mayor in 2015, losing a close race to current Mayor Nancy Fiorillo, who is not seeking a third term. Berggren became the first person in village history to win a write-in candidacy in 2013. She lost a re-election bid in 2017.

Berggren has a background in business and marketing. She directed marketing for the county’s Convention and Visitors Bureau for several years. Strickland has a background in business and finance and had a 30-year career in banking and finance.

The two are well-versed on Pinehurst’s issues, its history, its position in Moore County, and its dominant role in the global golf industry. “Pinehurst” is known the world over, and both Berggren and Strickland aim to make that as strong a brand as it can be.

Both candidates have also served the village in various volunteer positions, ranging from Berggren’s service on the Given Tufts Archives board to Strickland’s service on the village Historic Preservation Commission.

Team Player, Not an Activist

The difference — and deciding factor — between these two comes down to one of style. Remember us talking a moment ago about “collaborative spirit”? Berggren stands out as the better mayoral candidate on that point. She doesn’t come into this race overconfident and hardened on positions. She worked well with others during her term on council, trusted the staff to execute, and was always open-minded to others’ opinions. “I am a team person,” she says.

Conversely, Strickland touts his third-generation residency almost as though being mayor is in his lineage. When he ran for mayor four years ago, we endorsed Fiorillo, saying of Strickland, “He strikes us as a bit too activist in his approach and less likely to achieve consensus. He also seems too inclined to get village government involved in small-gauge matters where it need not stray.”

That has not changed. Strickland says, “I think it’s quite clear I have an extraordinary set of credentials that qualify me to manage Pinehurst.” Pinehurst has a professional staff to manage the village. The mayor is the first among equals. Pinehurst does not need an activist mayor to micromanage the staff and direct the village. It needs a coach, someone who can build coalitions, achieve consensus and then let others take the credit.

Both Berggren and Strickland are capable candidates, but only one meets the above condition. Pinehurst is doing a lot of things right. It needs someone who will move the ball forward, not redraw the rule book. For these reasons, The Pilot endorses Claire Berggren for Pinehurst mayor.

(9) comments

Kruno Huitzingh

The Pilot’s endorsement of Claire Berggren is indeed a glowing one! The Pilot refers to her 2013 “write in” election success, and almost dismissed her 2017 loss.

The Pilot endorsement and subsequent comments by residents reflect a variety of views on leadership.

We are in fact, very blessed to have an excellent village staff, but even excellence needs oversight and leadership from elected officials! The 2017 election, in many ways, was about Village Council transparency, and in hearing the voice of the Pinehurst’s citizens. Claire came in fourth behind the two current remaining council members.

Claire, at this time, is the only candidate running who voted to approve the development of the apartment complex on Rattlesnake .. and for the lowering of the minimum apartment square footage to accommodate the developer – interesting. Is that consistent with her stated value of “growth through sound policy making”, I wonder! Controlled growth is certainly one of the issues that will keep resurfacing, even with an implementable plan in place.

Claire also talks about enhancing the quality of life for residents, but takes a blasé view towards damage done to neighborhoods by short term rental properties. Sitting on the council she heard many a complaint. Is it leadership to say “call the police”, is it leadership to push the problem back to the state of NC? Other communities are at least attempting to tackle the problem.

Run down homes, garbage in the yards for weeks, ten plus cars in driveways/yards, and noisy drunken behavior all throughout the day, make for a very unwelcome neighbor.

Team play and leadership are essential on the village council.

I voted for Claire in 2013, but cannot agree with your current endorsement!

Kruno Huitzingh

Richard Wright

Nancy - I said what I said. As did Walter. The issue is not whether the village (or any village) should have partisans in office (they all are BTW), but that Claire could not or would not identify her political affiliation. Regardless, the council requires leadership of a quality that John can provide.

John Webster

A predictable endorsement from those who prefer to see Pinehurst converted into something like everywhere else. Claire Berggren would allow Nancy Fiorillo to continue to assist the developers' long range plan in which the Greens at Arboretum apartments become the norm for new development in Pinehurst.

Comparing Berggren's modest professional achievements with those of Strickland is disingenuous to say the least. A candidate's record is no small matter when attempting to predict future conduct. If the only reasons The Pilot has to endorse Claire Berggren is John Strickland's pride in his professional career and longstanding connection to Pinehurst, then please join me in voting for John Strickland for mayor of Pinehurst.

Walter B Bull

Since when a Mayor a "coach"? A Mayor is a leader who picks a governing philosophy in a large part through an affiliation with a political party.

Candidate Berggren is a registered independent. The voters should draw their own conclusions about a non-committed candidate. WBBJr

Nancy Fiorillo

Municipal elections are traditionally non-partisan. Please tell me the partisan nature of trash collection, street repairs, recreation or public safety services? Again, the vast majority of our citizens are more than satisfied with the non-partisan services we deliver.

Richard Wright

You missed Walter's fairly obvious point - that a person who claims to be independent cannot make a commitment to a party. He did not talk to the non-partisan nature of municipal elections. The VOP does not need someone who depends on the next paid study to determine which way the wind blows. Rather, the village needs some whose veins carry the texture of what Pinehurst was and is -- and who knows how to make things happen. The village has wandered over the last few years, trying to become what Pinehurst was never meant to be - just another small town community who failed to grow better rather than bigger.

Nancy Fiorillo

No, I did ‘t miss Walter’s point - unaffiliated folks are probably some of the best municipal officials. They think for themselves. Are you saying that Pinehurst’s texture is partisan? I think not.

Richard Wright

A rather tepid endorsement based on your vision of continuing a "kumbaya" council. Pinehurst needs a leader, one with vision yet cognizant of the past, not another like the current mayor. You somehow confuse John's energy with activism, and see Berggren's "let's get along" attitude as coaching. The village staff needs to be challenged, to realize that not everything they want is a community need. Pinehurst needs a leader, one who encourages debate, engages the entire community and who can draw the best from the community to impel Pinehurst forward. The last choice Pinehurst needs is more of the same disengaged leadership, who might forge a consensus (consensus is a failure of leadership) among the council but ignore the residents.

Nancy Fiorillo

A well-deserved endorsement of Claire Berggren! She has all the right qualities to work with our strategic partners to carry on the cooperative efforts currently underway. Our Village has an incredibly talented staff to carry out policies developed by our Mayor and Council. They have no need to be challenged and those who feel they do, know little about the workings of local government. Our citizens are overwhelmingly satisfied with our programs and services. We need a dynamic yet sensible leader - Claire Berggren.

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