by Mickayla McCann
Franklin Gomez Flores is seeking a seat on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners in order to advocate for the needs of his community and increase minority representation in government.
Born in Guatemala, Gomez fled the country’s violence, poverty, and lack of opportunity with his family, and came to Siler City when he was just five years old. He attended Chatham County schools, where he worked tirelessly to learn English in order to help his family navigate their new country. He rapidly began to excel academically, eventually graduating from Jordan Matthews High School among the top 10 students in his class. With the support of the Scholars’ Latino Initiative, he entered UNC-Chapel Hill and graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
While at UNC, Gomez served as an intern for the Office of Undergraduate Retention’s Finish Line Project, an outreach program especially intended to engage and support minority male students. He also mentored Latinx high school students by conducting college prep workshops that included information about handling the applications process, meeting admissions requirements, securing financial aid, and succeeding academically and socially. Also, he served as outreach chair for UNC’s Carolina Hispanic Association and interned for a summer with Gilded Realty Group in Mebane.
Gomez stated that he was inspired to get involved in local politics after witnessing the many difficulties the Latinx community faced in his hometown, Siler City. Gomez was disturbed by the negative stereotypes heaped on the Latinx community and decided to become a member of the Chatham County Planning Board in order to disrupt the prejudiced narrative and stand up for his people.
At the beginning of the year, Gomez chose to amplify his impact and run for election to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners as the representative of District 5. Because of his former status as an unaffiliated voter -- despite currently being a registered Democrat -- Gomez was unable to file for candidacy in the 2020 Primary as a result of legislation passed last year. In order to get his name on the ballot for the November election, Gomez was required to gather 2,148 signatures from registered voters in Chatham. With the help of Chatham County Democratic Party, Gomez was able to secure over 3,500 signatures, confirming his status as a certified candidate.
“I have always wanted to be a voice for my community,” Gomez said. “The last Latino commissioner we had in all of North Carolina was in 2006. In Chatham County, we haven’t had any Latino commissioners. I want to change that.”
As a commissioner, Gomez stated that he would prioritize ensuring quality education, increasing jobs, expanding access to affordable housing, and promoting responsible county growth. He understands that a bright future hinges on investments in our youth, and in order to support them, education must fit their needs. Gomez supports increasing teacher pay, decreasing class sizes, and continuing the Chatham County Promise, which provides two years of tuition-free enrollment at Central Carolina Community College for qualifying Chatham County high school graduates. As a product of Chatham County, he also knows that job options are limited and aims to recruit new employers to the area that offer livable wages and competitive benefits. Further, as Chatham continues to expand, Gomez seeks to advocate for the construction of more affordable housing and for responsible guidelines surrounding growth in order to protect the county’s natural resources.
“I have lived through the issues in Chatham; I’ve seen it grow and change,” Gomez said. “I come with a different perspective. What we really need is diversity in decision making, especially in office. We become innovative; we discover things through our differences in thinking. I bring that to the table.”
To stay updated and learn more about Gomez’s campaign, check out his website. To make a contribution to his campaign, visit https://www.franklinforcommissioner.com/donations.html.