Every four or eight years, our country creates a big spectacle around the peaceful exchange of power from one President to another. As a nation, we hang our hat on the fact that we continue to do that without violence or bloodshed – one of the hallmarks of our democracy.
Well, that kind of transition happens at the local level, too, albeit with much less fanfare and potential for unrest. Municipal seats change hands every two years in Holly Springs, or at least have the potential to do so. And sometimes… not very often, but sometimes… a seat changes hands without an election cycle, which doesn’t generate any buzz in the community.
Such was the case here in the Springs when sitting town council member Linda Hunt Williams won a seat in the NC State Legislature in the November 2017 general election. Taking the new seat in Raleigh required Ms. Williams to resign her seat on the Holly Springs Town Council in December, leaving a vacancy on the board and one remaining year in her 3-year term. The Town Council accepted her resignation and then solicited interest from residents who might want to fill that spot. A number of people indicated an interest in the position, so each Town Council member was allowed to nominate two names for consideration. After an initial vote, they voted a second time and narrowed the field down to one individual – Mr. Peter Villadsen.
And who is Pete Villadsen?
He is a multi-faceted individual who has spent a great deal of time educating himself about how our town works, who all the players are, and what documents govern our town policy. He is now in a position to work hard to help improve our quality of life and make educated decisions about issues that come before the Town Council.
How did he get to this point in his life and in the evolution of Holly Springs as a thriving Raleigh suburb? By getting involved and learning how things work.
Peter Villadsen, like many of us, did not grow up in Holly Springs. He and his wife Suzanne moved here in 2005 with his (then) two young children because they were tired of the traffic and cost of living in Northern Virginia. After considerable research based on specific criteria, they pinpointed the Triangle area as a possibility, and settled on Holly Springs because the homes being built here were attractive and the town and all it offers was appealing. Their daughter Grace was about 3 years old and their son Christian was an infant when they made the move, and they had their third child, Jane, after moving here.
Pete is a software engineer and has worked from home for an established security company for the entire 10 years he has lived here.
Pete’s involvement in town circles began in 2014 when the Ramkatte development resurfaced as an active project. Pete heard through his HOA that the original zoning for the project had been reestablished and the developer was redoing the PUD. The residents of his community had long known that the property (adjacent to Holly Springs Elementary School) was destined for development, but many of them were shocked at the density and type of homes that were being proposed – and the complete destruction of the land around them.
“I started digging into it, reading town documents, researching who was responsible for what, and asking questions,” Pete explains. “It was an eye-opening experience, but also a learning experience that better prepared us for other situations like this.”
Pete and a number of other residents voiced their concerns to Town Council members, town staff, and planning board members as they navigated the series of planning board and Town Council meetings. The end result didn’t turn out the way they wanted, but they were able to gain a few concessions like reduced density, reduction in town home size, and larger buffers between the new homes and existing adjacent residences. “Through communication and a lot of effort on our part, we were able to open some eyes to concerns about infrastructure and density and how that all affects the quality of life of current residents – people who have already made an investment in the community,” Pete says.
Born out of that effort, however, was the Facebook group “Citizens for Responsible Growth in Holly Springs,” which Pete started with several other people as a way of communicating with local residents on issues of growth and quality of life in our community. The idea was to bring people together with one mission to share information, debate it, and learn from it. That group is still going strong and still is the one place on social media that stays true to that mission without a ton of controversy. “We share the documents that guide our Town Council and town staff as they make decisions that affect our community so we can help understand that process. It’s not just a discussion site – it’s a way of disseminating information and discussing ways to improve the decision-making process along the way.”
After one of the other “Citizens” admins, Tom O’Brien, was elected to the Town Council in 2015, a vacancy on the Planning Board became available, and O’Brien wasted no time convincing Pete to consider the post. For Pete, the position was a natural extension of what he had already been doing as an HOA member in his neighborhood and what he had learned through the Ramkatte experience and his work with Citizens for Responsible Growth. “With Tom on the board and my experience speaking to issues of growth and its impact on quality of life issues in Holly Springs, I felt the timing was good to use that knowledge at the town level,” Pete explains. “It was a natural next step.”
With less than a year on the Planning Board, however, Linda Hunt Williams’ vacant seat on the Town Council popped up, and Pete was faced with a decision. “When I was first approached about putting my hat in the ring for Linda’s position, I was a little hesitant,” Pete shares. “I felt I still had so much left to learn, and the time commitment was a big leap with three active kids and a busy job.” But, after some thought, Pete chose to give it a try. With the position only requiring a 1-year commitment, it gives him time to kick the tires and determine if he can handle the time commitment before deciding whether or not to run for election in the Fall of 2017.
Newly appointed to the Council, Pete has only attended one meeting as a full-fledged member. He says it’s too soon to tell what he can accomplish in his short first term, but he is taking it seriously – learning all he can, contributing as much as possible, and being unafraid to speak his mind on issues that are important to the community.
When he is not working and serving the town of Holly Springs, Pete enjoys all kinds of adventures. Camping, hiking, and traveling are favorite activities, and he shares many of those with his whole family. A recent trip to Costa Rica and another to Disney included all five of the Villadsens, and the annual calendar is peppered with hikes and camping trips. Most notable of his adventures includes a 2015 trip to Tanzania in Africa to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro! Pete also has an affinity for astronomy, and practiced astrophotography before he became busy with his kids.
We wish Pete Villadsen the best of luck in his new endeavors and are optimistic that he will work hard for the best interests of Holly Springs and its residents.