Seven Democratic candidates are running for the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners At-Large positions. Incumbents Patricia (Pat) Cotham, Trevor M. Fuller, and Ella Scarborough face Gerenda Davis, Jamie Hildreth, Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel and Ray McKinnon. Citizens can vote for three on the ballot. Winners of the May 8 primary will face Republican Jeremy Brasch on the November ballot.

Each candidate who will appear on the primary ballot had the opportunity to answer a few questions in their own words that have not been edited. Here’s what they had to say:

Name: Patricia "Pat" Cotham

Town/City of residence” Charlotte

Political Experience” At Large County Commissioner 2012-Present, DNC Member 2011-2016, President of the Democratic Women (twice), Chair of Uptown Democratic Forum for 15 years, Precinct leader 10 plus years, State Executive Committee Executive Council five years, "Distinguished Democratic Woman of the Year" Award, Democratic Star Award, worked on dozens of campaigns over 25 plus years

Education” BA, Spanish, BJ Journalism University of Missouri-Columbia

Employment: Full-time County Commissioner

Herald Citizen: Why do you want this position?

Pat Cotham: Board needs an independent voice that is a fierce advocate for all people-I am only commissioner who is deeply involved with homeless people, mothers and women who go to court for Domestic Violence or with their children

HC: What sets you apart from other candidates?

PC: I did deep into issues and I ask tough questions. I am NOT a rubber stamp of the Manager and staff. I am not afraid to call someone out who is an obstacle to what the people want.

HC: What are the most pressing issues for Mecklenburg County that you hope to change?

PC: there are different "pressing issues" in different parts of the county.

North Mecklenburg-Magistrate, Toll Road problem, more schools, better transportation options,

West Charlotte and East Charlotte need advocate for economic development

Steele Creek area in desperate need for high school

Pineville needs a library

Better collaboration with state legislators could help immensely with Greenways and park and Rec because the State spends NO Money on State Parks in Mecklenburg-therefore counties like

Wake County has more money for schools and Greenways. The state could help with housing by giving tenants more rights so they are not evicted in such high numbers causing  homelessness. The county should work to improve collaboration with the six towns.

Gerenda Davis

Town/city of residence: Charlotte

Political experience: 1st time candidate - government employee

Employment: Master of Public Administration Degree from UNC-Charlotte

Herald Citizen: Why do you want this position?

Gerenda Davis: After serving the people of Mecklenburg County for more than forty years as an officer/supervisor and a volunteer I want to serve and give my experience to making Mecklenburg County better. I want to work with a proactive commission who wants to get things done and not just send millions of dollars on studies. I want to reduce the number of homeless people, fix the problems of the Health Dept. and get a living wage for its citizens who are struggling. The current commission lives in a wait and see mode while the county suffers and our problems increase (look at I-77). It is time for some new thinking and people of action on the commission. It is time for a change.

HC: What sets you apart from other candidates?

GD: am the candidate who has actually done things to make Mecklenburg County better for its citizens. I led the in-car camera program for the CMPD during a time when officers did not want cameras and felt it was an invasion of their privacy. That included officer training and equipping the cars and training and equipping the courts to use video evidence. When the seatbelt and car-seat laws became mandatory I worked with the public, Safe Kids and CMPD's HITS Unit in helping to get the public to where they are now with seatbelts and car-seat being second nature and not an infringement.

HC: What are the most pressing issues for Mecklenburg County that you hope to change?

GD: I want to see the Health Dept. operating as it should and in the best interest of its citizens. I want to reduce the number of CMS students reading below grade level. I also want us out of the current I-77 contract.

Trevor M. Fuller

Town/City of residence: Charlotte

Political experience: County Commissioner At Large since 2012

Employment: Attorney

Education: A.B., Hamilton College; J.D., Georgetown University Law Center

Herald Citizen: Why do you want this position?

Trevor M. Fuller: It has been my honor and privilege to represent the more than 1 million people who live in this great county. During my tenure, I have advanced major initiatives, including the Charlotte Mecklenburg Economic Opportunity Task Force and Universal Pre-K. These initiatives will help enable Mecklenburg County residents of every background to claim their part of the American Dream, through self-sufficiency, self-realization, and economic security. I seek another term in office to continue my leadership in completing the next major milestones that will ensure the durability of these undertakings.

HC: What sets you apart from other candidates?

TF: I have provided strong leadership on key issues vital to the enduring prosperity of our county. I have served in office with vision, ability, honor, and dignity.

HC: What are the most pressing issues for Mecklenburg County that you hope to change?

TC: 1. Economic Opportunity for All – in light of our challenge concerning the lack of economic mobility, and in response to the report from the Economic Opportunity Task Force, we need to develop a plan of action specific to Mecklenburg County flowing from the Task Force recommendations. This plan of action needs to embrace real change, not just cosmetic change.

2. Education – we need to ensure that our kids are ready for school in kindergarten and that they read on grade-level in third grade. That is why I have led the effort to bring universal pre-K to Mecklenburg County so that every child, from birth to age five, will have assured access to a quality early childhood education.

3. Affordable Housing – we need to make sure that every citizen in our county has safe, decent, and affordable housing. We need to reduce homelessness through increased Housing First efforts, and, through public-private partnerships, incentivize developers to produce more housing that is affordable for more people. The county should increase supportive housing services, and implement programs that can lead to greater home ownership.

Jamie Hildreth

Town/City of residence: HUNTERSVILLE

Political experience: Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Executive Board, Secretary 2015-2016
Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Precinct 61 Chair 2015-2016
Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC) Board 2013-2018, Chairmain 2016-2018
Field Organizer for the reelections of President Obama and Sen. Kay Hagan in 2012 and 2014

Employment: Financial Services, small business financial crimes prevention and support

Education: Graduate of Anson High School in Wadesboro, NC in 2008 and went on to study Political Science at UNC Charlotte.

Herald Citizen: Why do you want this position?

Jamie Hildreth: I want this position because the residents of Mecklenburg County deserve more. We deserve a county commission that puts aside personal differences to do the business of the county. I want, and all other residents should have leaders who are able to provide focused solutions to our needs. Not a constant list of what the county cant do. I am continually frustrated when I hear incumbents say " its the state's fault, the state isnt doing enough", we agree there, but tell me what you're going to do so that Mecklenburg County steps up in the meantime. So if the people of North Mecklenburg want someone who is ready to be proactive and not reactive, I believe they'll support one of their own fellow North Mecklenburg residents this cycle.

HC: What sets you apart from other candidates?

JH: What sets me apart from many of the candidates is my history of collaboration between the boards I have served on and partner organizations. It is exactly that type of proven leadership, to unite people for a common goal, that is needed on our current commission. I have also worked on a property tax revaluation for another county even helping to determine the revenue neutral tax rate, something that will be needed this term on county commission. I also bring voice that has never existed before on our county commission. I would be the youngest member ever elected and first member of the LGBT community to serve on the commission. Lastly, I am already familiar with county government. For 5 years as a MeckPAC board member I have worked with a majority of our local governments, city and towns, CMS and county, to provide provide better policy for all county residents.

HC: What are the most pressing issues for Mecklenburg County that you hope to change?

JH: In Mecklenburg County we must work to close the opportunity gaps that exist. We do this by focusing on Economic Mobility, Education and Equity.

By focusing on economic mobility we can begin to meet needs now. Our county can fund of job help centers in Mecklenburg County Libraries, all over the county. These centers provide critical resources for job seekers like formatting resumes and searching for jobs, and unemployment help for those who are out of work. Providing high school and college students with more options for career and college readiness, and vocational training to better prepare them to join the workforce.

Education, our long term path to close opportunity gaps. We need to prepare all of our students to compete in our global economy. That means facilitating better school funding to support all of our schools by rebuilding bonds and trust between CMS and the County Commission. Fully funding Pre-Kindergarten for all 4-year-olds in the county. Early childhood education is one of the most significant indicators of future success and part of the process of addressing economic mobility.We must also ensure there is equity in resources given as well. There is no reason South Mecklenburg High has over 30 AP courses while North Mecklenburg High School students only have access to less than 15.

Lastly but not least, my Equity focus. The systems in our county designed to serve our residents should not be working against any of our communities. We need to build our residents up by working with cities and towns to provide alternative solutions to our affordable housing crisis. We can utilize our county resources, both land, and funds to help accelerate the addition of new housing in needed areas. We must end the 287g program, which has proven more harmful than helpful for our community. If the Sheriff's department doesn't end the program, the County Commission must use the budget process to defund it. Halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and reducing the instances of new cases in Mecklenburg County. We can do this by fully supporting the PReP and PEP program. Mecklenburg County has some the highest rates of HIV/AIDS transmission in the country. But with PReP and PEP we can bring our new cases down to zero like other major cities such as San Francisco have done because of PReP and PEP clinics.

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel

Town/City of residence: Charlotte

Education: BS, Agricultural Education and Environmental Science
MS, Agricultural Economics and Rural Development
PhD Candidate, Energy and Environmental Systems and Economics
MFA Coursework - Theatre Production

Political experience: I have no traditional political experience. However, I have 27 years of leadership experience. I'm 41. My first job, at 14, was a cashier at Carolina Thrift in Greensboro. As soon as I turned 16, I was highly sought after for management, hired as an assistant manager and managed or trained management in nearly every major store in the Four Seasons Town Mall (now Centre).

Employment: Business Consultant and PhD Candidate

Herald Citizen: Why do you want this position?

Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel: I'm objective, empathetic, excel in conflict resolution, have interdisciplinary academia that lends greatly to what city government needs, and as an economist I can appropriate funds ethically, fairly, strategically and to end of actually getting things done ... and not only done but for less with the same quality.

HC: What sets you apart from other candidates?

TM: All I've stated above. Also, I have reiterated to Charlotteans that I speak fluent legislation. I completed my first year of law school and then realized my truest love was/is science. I returned to the pursuit of graduate degrees in Science and Economics. Nonetheless, I have always been inclined toward law. Having served as a Federal Ranger and operated my own businesses, law is an inseparable component. I became good at litigation despite not completing law school. I speak fluent Science. I speak fluent Economics. I speak fluent law. Legislation is THE language of county, city, state and federal government. It is also THE vehicle for change that most seek. My skill set, experience, and leadership style (participatory), collectively, sets me apart.

HC: What are the most pressing issues for Mecklenburg County that you hope to change?

TM: Economic empowerment. Completion of unfinished projects. Restoration of power to people. Community oneness. Legal education. These will all lend toward addressing the myriad of pressing issues in our county and even surrounding townships et cetera. County/municipal government is stagnated because of power struggles and complete ignorance of the law and what the Commission/ers can or cannot do. I can assist in changing that very real problem.

Ray McKinnon

Town/City of residence: Charlotte, NC 28216

Political experience: Commissioner at Charlotte Housing Authority, member of the Leading on Opportunity Council, Co-Founder and Vice President of New South Progressives, SouthEnd Board member, Democratic National Committeeman representing NC, and a member of North Carolina Democratic Party’s State Executive Council.

Employment: I currently serve as the pastor at South Tryon Community UMC in Charlotte. Our church works closely with the Brookhill Community, advocating for safe and affordable housing for the more than three hundred folks who call Brookhill home.

Education: I graduated from Dudley High School and later John Wesley University in High Point.

Herald Citizen: Why do you want this position?

Ray McKinnon: I’m running on a simple theme: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.

In my community work, I’ve been privileged to be a part of Charlotte’s conversation about economic and social justice. I am an advocate, on the local level, for justice, equity, and inclusion. I believe that every person deserves the ability to live, grow, and prosper in every zip code and every neighborhood.

However, it’s a conversation some members of our county commission have been absent from. While public school teachers like my wife, Kelly, are waiting on more resources and support, county government pursued a multi-million dollar soccer stadium.

While immigrants contribute to the prosperity of our city and county every day, many still live in fear due to policies like 287(g), a policy our County still endorses.

Finally, while more Mecklenburg County residents than ever are housing-insecure due to rising rents and property values, many of our leaders refuse to hear the voices of those who need shelter and heat most.

If our county is going to succeed, we have to change this conversation, and we have to start listening. I’m running because it’s time for our community to focus on justice, equity, and inclusion.

HC: What sets you apart from other candidates?

RM: My lived experiences, my relationships across the County, and my passions for justice, equity, and inclusion make me the best candidate for one of the three seats. I serve our community in various capacities: I’m a pastor, Commissioner at Charlotte Housing Authority, member of the Leading on Opportunity Council, Co-Founder and Vice President of New South Progressives, SouthEnd Board member, Democratic National Committeeman representing NC, and a member of North Carolina Democratic Party’s State Executive Council. These roles, and others, have prepared me to serve on the Board of County Commissioners and have forged necessary relationships.

I’ve been privileged to be a part of Charlotte’s conversation about economic and social justice. I am an advocate on the local level, for justice, equity, and inclusion. Every person deserves the ability to live, grow, and prosper in every zip code and every neighborhood.

I have gained the ability to work with seemingly disparate groups to help us all move in the same direction--while honoring the person in front of us and not focusing on the greater area of disagreement.

HC: What are the most pressing issues for Mecklenburg County that you hope to change?

RM: Three issues that are most pressing are: The Opportunity Gap, Affordable Housing and our Criminal Justice System.

Our OPPORTUNITY GAP continues to grow and our community continues to resegregate. Everyone in Charlotte deserves a fair shot, and that starts with what is under the county’s control. I believe the county commission should treat teachers, social workers, and all county employees with respect by increasing our local supplement and raising the county minimum wage to $15. We want to attract the best talent, deliver the best services, and make sure that all of our employees are making a living wage. I want to focus the County on closing the opportunity gap and fighting poverty, because we don’t need to be thinking about building a new soccer stadium until every member of our community has a roof over their heads. Finally, we have to make sure we are closing the gap in our schools by providing a quality, public, sunrise to sunset education from Pre-K through community college.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING is a crisis in our community, and every government agency and shelter provider has to work together to solve this crisis. There is no one solution to this crisis, but we must work with County, City, private sector, non-profit and Faith community stakeholders to develop a plan to address Affordable Housing. We can’t do this without our partners in government, so we should work with the city & school board to identify possible affordable sites when public land comes up for sale. We should be more proactive about moving people from shelters into permanent housing, and we can’t turn our back on those who are housing insecure.

Our CRIMINAL JUSTICE system is in need of reform, but we can make progress. I want to provide more opportunities for non-violent offenders. We should reform the criminal justice system by working with other agencies to reform the cash bail system and ending our participation in the 287(g) program. Finally, I want to work towards the goal of building a just community by having the humility to see every member of this community as our equal.

Ella Scarborough is also on the Democratic primary ballot for the Mecklenburg County commissioner at-large seat. She did not respond to the Herald Citizen after repeated attempts. Her campaign website, per the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections, is


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