Charlitta Burruss is running for mayor of Durham. Photo by Kendall Chavis.
Charlitta Burruss, a candidate for the mayoral office of Durham, spent her Thursday morning driving around the community picking up and replacing her campaign signs that were kicked over or thrown out.
Burruss said that she always looks out for her opponent’s signs that may have been messed with.
“I just told the other candidates that even though we still have to run against each other, we have to be civil to each other,” she said. “When I go and pick up my signs, I also pick up the other candidate signs so all of us outsiders can be seen.”
Burruss was born and raised in Washington D.C. surrounded by family who were involved in ministry. Burruss has previously ran for mayor in 2007 in Monroe County, NC and ran for city council of that county in 2011. She then moved to Durham to run for city council in 2018, for mayor in 2021 and for mayor in 2023.
Burruss described that she is not a politician like some of the other candidates, but that she has lived experience.
“I know what it means to live below median income, know what it means to live in houses, know what it means to be shot at, two or three times, and still continue to be active in my community,” she said.
Burruss said she feels hopeful to try and bring back the connection between lower income areas and those who hold public office in Durham.
Burruss also acknowledged that while some police officers have abused their power, she wants to change the stigma of people being afraid of the police.
“I understand your fear, but it goes two ways,” she said. “They want to go home to their families as much as we want to go home to ours.”
She recalled when she was growing up in Washington D.C., her neighborhood had who they called, “Officer Friendly.” Everyone knew the police officers and people were comfortable with law enforcement checking in on their community without feeling threatened.
Burruss said a big issue she cares about is not defunding the police. She said what Durham really needs is to hire more police officers.
Burruss also emphasized that elected officials are chosen to help the people, not their own personal agenda. She said elected officials working as a team is what the community needs.
Burruss is also a bus driver in the community and describes how she has seen many unhoused people while she is out late at night. One night before she got in her bus, she saw one man laying out on a bench with a blanket.
“What are we going to do about the homeless population?” she said. “We are talking about having affordable housing, but what about these people on the street.”
Burruss said she has invited many unhoused people in her home to let them sleep and eat. Despite the danger of letting strangers in, she explained how it hurts her to see these people with no place to go.
She said the reason she puts herself out there this way is because of her son and because she knows the struggle people go through. That’s why she believes where you come from does make a difference.
“I am not ashamed of where I live, when I can’t get out myself, and then I am wanting to be an elected official,” Burruss said. “That should show people something, I am right down here with y’all.”
Burruss said it’s important to her to regain the trust of the community, to come to the city council meetings and feel heard and be a part of the community’s accomplishments.
Another goal that she wants to accomplish is for the people who want to live in Durham to be able to afford to stay in Durham. Most of the houses now in Durham start at $450,000 and downtown Durham starting at $1,000,000.
Another issue Burruss is concerned about surrounding housing is development. She explained that she does not have an issue with development but with the safety of the buildings.
JFK Towers is a low-income community that houses over 200 older residents that has received many complaints of mismanagement and poor living conditions, according to WRAL News.
“Another thing that I want to see happen is for them to investigate these developers before you give them money to see their credibility to see what they have done and what their new residents think of them,” Burruss said.
Burruss said that many reporters ask her what type of experience she has had in local government, but she always responds that she cannot have local government experience until she is put into office.
“I want to make my community better,” Burruss said. “I could do like everyone else, go in the house, grow old and mind my own business, but, when there is something in you, you go out here and try to do something because somebody one day is going to hear what you have to say, and that is what I believe in running this race.”