DAVIDSON – During their 18 months in office, members of Davidson’s current governing body – including a new mayor and four out of five first-term commissioners – have often expressed different perspectives and opinions related to municipal management.
Starting with a revised approach to address public facilities needs – a long and winding path with some dead ends and U-turns along the way – and featuring multiple debates concerning how, where, when, how much and if public funds should be spent, officials conducted several sessions of four hours or more, ultimately leading to the conclusion that on many subjects, they agree to disagree.
But when it came time to decide about pursuing another term, their decision was unanimous.
On July 8, the second day in the filing period for 2019 municipal elections in Mecklenburg County, Mayor Rusty Knox and all five commissioners – Jane Campbell, Matthew Fort, Jim Fuller, Autumn Rierson Michael and David Sitton – went together to formally initiate their bids for re-election.
Knox, Campbell, Fort, Fuller and Michael met as planned on Monday morning at town hall and carpooled to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections office, where Sitton, who admitted he was “still deciding” about seeking a new term Sunday evening, joined them.
As of June 10, the six incumbents were the only candidates who had filed for Davidson’s municipal election, which in 2017 featured three mayoral hopefuls and 13 candidates competing for town board seats.
In neighboring north Mecklenburg towns during the early days of filing, incumbents and challengers had officially entered the races that will fill mayor and commissioner seats for two-year terms.
The filing period for candidates continues until noon on Friday, July 19.
No good or bad guys
As recently as June, the varying viewpoints of Davidson commissioners were on display. After two drawn-out discussions about the budget and the concept of using reserve funds instead of a less-than-a-penny tax hike to balance anticipated expenditures and revenues, the board eventually adopted the package with the higher tax rate by a 3-2 vote.
Fuller, the one veteran commissioner on the board, was on the losing side with Fort. But prior to the vote, after each official had expressed opinions about the budget plan, he quoted a 1977 song to describe the situation: “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy. There’s only you and me and we just disagree.”
And on their way to file for re-election Monday, each board member shared a similar perspective about their colleagues.
“We have a diverse group, generally speaking, and that’s a good thing,” Sitton said. “Usually, I’m a dissenting voice, and that’s fine. We don’t always agree, but we do talk about things and I think we have a good working group.”
“It’s transparent,” Fuller said. “We air things out in open. We might disagree, completely. But we are able to shake hands afterward and move on.”
Fort, often the most adamant in expressing views about finances, said the exchanges are informative and productive.
“That’s the process; we talk about issues and how we see things differently,” he said. “Before, at times, it could seem like board decisions were already made before the meetings. That doesn’t happen now. We don’t always agree, and that’s okay.”
“People are getting to see how the sausage is made,” Micheal added. “It’s not always pretty, but that is what’s happening.”
Campbell, joining Sitton in applying “good working group” as a board description, said she believed the varied perspectives reflect the makeup of the town.
“If Davidson was a homogenous community with everyone seeing things the same way,” Campbell said, “we wouldn’t need to have this mix of people and opinions.”
Knox was quick to put added emphasis on Campbell’s statement.
“If it was homogenous, we certainly would not have this group,” he said. “We’ve had some intense discussions and a good many 3-2 votes. But I think we work well together.”
In the early days of candidate filing, familiar names also highlighted the list of office seekers in Cornelius. Mayor Woody Washam has formally entered the race for re-election along with current commissioners Denis Bilodeau, Dave Gilroy, Mike Miltich and Thurman Ross. Kurt Naas, the other current member of the five-seat council, had not filed as of Tuesday afternoon.
Challenger Ava Callender filed June 10.
In the last municipal election in Cornelius in 2017, Washam ran unopposed but 11 candidates were in the field for town board seats.
Challengers in Huntersville
Several incumbents and challengers have declared their intentions to seek office in Huntersville
Mayor John Aneralla will seek re-election and currently faces a challenge from former town commissioner Rob Kidwell. Incumbent Dan Boone has filed for re-election along with four other candidates for town board seats: Jenn Davis, Lance Munger, Derek Partee and Joe Sailers.
Other members of the current Huntersville board are Melinda Bales, Brian Hines, Danny Phillips and Nick Walsh.
In 2017, Aneralla ran unopposed for his second term as mayor and 12 candidates were in the race for town board seats.
School board seats
In Mecklenburg County, November’s election will fill three at-large seats on the board of education. Candidates filed as of June 10 are: Elyse Dashew, Jennifer De La Jara, Gregory Denlea, Lenora Shipp, Monty Witherspoon and Jordan Pineda.