Greensboro's nonpartisan primary elections for City Council and mayor take place next Tuesday with the top two mayoral vote-getters squaring off in Greensboro's municipal general election in July. We're taking a look at each of the candidates this week, and our profiles continue with Eric Robert.
Robert came to the U.S. from France via Gabon, Africa, nearly 40 years ago, and he's lived what he calls the American dream. The self-described creative professional says he wants to clear that path for others.
"There are still too many people that are homeless," says Robert. "There are still too many people that are hungry. There still are too many people that live below the poverty level. So, it is really our responsibility to make sure that — before we can call ourselves a community — we need to make sure that everybody else's needs are addressed, basic needs."
Robert says he draws on his experience as a creative director, as well as current research, to address problems like rising crime. He says recent studies show that a majority of crime takes place within small areas.
"You don't need to buy tanks for the police," he says. "You don't need to buy more AKs. You need different kinds of forces with different skills. I mean, the thing is, we're asking our police to be social workers for like 80% of the time."
Robert believes Greensboro's favorable logistical qualities, infrastructure, and geographical strengths have enabled it to remain attractive to employers and employees alike. But he says due to what he perceives to be a lack of vision and creative thinking, the city has been successful largely despite itself, relying on what he describes as wealthy tastemakers to set the agenda as opposed to harnessing the talents of local college graduates.
"And just about every other candidate is like, well, we need to make sure we retain you and we need to make sure there are jobs for you and I'm like, no," says Robert. "The best thing that could happen to us is for them to actually leave. Go. See the world. And when you're ready, come back and contribute something greater than you could have contributed to us if you had never left."
This is Robert's first time running for political office. The local entrepreneur says he's running as a citizens' advocate.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified the Greensboro municipal general election as occurring in November. The election is July 26, 2022.