North Carolina volunteers persevere for a municipal resolution

north carolina climate resolution

North Carolina volunteers persevere for a municipal resolution

By Gwyneth Lonergan

Momentum is building among businesses, institutions, and municipalities in support of placing a price on carbon. Just last year, CCL volunteers generated more than 100 local, county, and tribal resolutions in support of the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. 

In March of 2021, a town called Knightdale became the latest municipality in North Carolina to pass a resolution calling on the state and federal governments to act on climate and transition to a clean economy. How did this resolution come to pass? By the hard work and perseverance of three CCL volunteers: Drs. Mary Wayne Watson and David Barrow of Knightdale, and Granville Early College high school senior Jordyn Brown.

Inspiration and initial steps 

CCL’s Program Director Donald Addu first introduced Mary Wayne and David to CCL at an April 2019 symposium at UNC-Chapel Hill entitled “Why Is Climate Change So Difficult to Address or Stop?” Mary Wayne was inspired by Don’s message that it’s not too late to act on climate. 

Shortly after, Mary Wayne and David approached Don and asked for his help in advocating for a municipal resolution in their town of Knightdale. Don was able to address a working meeting of the Town Council, which helped the volunteers get their feet in the door. Still, they thought the council might not be supportive of a climate resolution like this — they worried they would have an uphill climb. 

Building relationships and support

Over the next 18 months, Mary Wayne, David, and Jordyn climbed that hill.  During that year and a half, various city council members, mayors, and staffers came and went. While this much turnover might discourage some, the trio persisted, and through dedicated relationship-building, they were able to keep the ball rolling. 

Even when the pandemic caused the cessation of all public meetings in March 2020, they kept at it and finally got the resolution back on the Council’s agenda. Mary Wayne says, “When I get a passion, I don’t let it go.”

In addition to cultivating relationships with Councilors, Mary Wayne, David, and Jordyn utilized their pre-existing networks to build support for the resolution’s passage. They connected with Mary Wayne’s friends at her local wellness center, Jordyn’s peers at school, and the East Wake Democrats to voice their support for the resolution and climate action as a whole.

Activating youth voices

CCL volunteer Jordyn Brown, who will be attending UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall, connected with Mary Wayne and officially joined the “dream team” in September of 2020. Her youth, all three agree, brought renewed energy and a fresh perspective to the team. After consulting with Don, Jordyn agreed to speak at the December Council work session and offer her generation’s perspective on the need to act on climate. 

Jordyn says this opportunity was a great way to get hands-on experience working on climate action and to feel as though she was making a tangible difference in her community. Jordyn was even featured on WPTF radio talking about the resolution effort. She’s also made lifelong friends in Mary Wayne and David who, due to the pandemic, she has never met in person!

knightdale north carolina volunteers

From top to bottom: Drs. David Barrow and Mary Wayne Watson, CCL intern Gwyneth Lonergan, and Jordyn Brown

Positive response leads to passage

On February 17, the Town Council announced that the resolution would be opened to public comment on their website. The volunteers actively solicited positive comments from their network, helping ensure that the city would hear good feedback about the resolution. In a town of 19,000, their efforts were able to make a real impact, and the positive response was clear. 

The Knightdale Town Council met on March 17 to vote on the resolution.  Happily for Mary Wayne, David, and Jordyn, the Council was far from unsupportive. By now, they had undergone a “virtual transformation,” Mary Wayne says, and they had actually been working on the resolution on their own. For example, Councilor Stephen Morgan had solicited feedback about the resolution from his nephew — a climate scientist, and a former student of Mary Wayne’s. He had made some changes to the original resolution proposed by the team, and he worked with the other council members on a version that all five of them could support. At the March 17 meeting, he brought this alternate resolution up for discussion.

That same night, the Council unanimously passed the alternative resolution. Mary Wayne, David, and Jordyn were overjoyed, to say the least. Mary Wayne says, “Getting this resolution passed seemed like a miracle.” It’s clear this miracle wouldn’t have happened without her and her fellow volunteers’ perseverance.

Looking toward the future, these hardworking volunteers say, “We hope that Knightdale can lead the way toward enlightenment on this critical issue to preserve a future for a more stable and cooperative human existence on our planet.”

Gwyneth Lonergan is a communications intern for CCL and a senior at Wake Forest University pursuing a BA in Politics & International Affairs.

For information on how to plan and pass a local resolution, visit the Engaging City & Local Governments for Resolutions page on CCL Community.