MINT HILL – For the first time in over two decades, Ted Biggers’ name will not be on the November ballot.
Biggers announced June 26 that he will not seek an 11th term as mayor of Mint Hill.
Biggers, a retired airline pilot and U.S. Air Force veteran, was first elected mayor without opposition in 1999. He was re-elected nine times, including five times when he did not face an opponent. In the four elections he had an opponent, Biggers received at least 70 percent of the vote each time. He served one term on the board of commissioners before being elected mayor.
Biggers said he wants to spend more time with his wife, three children and one grandchild. Biggers is also helping take care of his 96-year-old mother, which he said factored into his decision.
“I have reached a point in my life where I want to have a little bit more freedom as far as going out of town, taking vacations and spending time with the family,” Biggers said. “I think it is the right time for me to retire from public service and do more family time and community service. Myself and my family are also taking care of my 96-year-old mother, and she is doing good. But I want to spend more time with her.’’
As mayor, Biggers helped steer Mint Hill toward a town manager form of government, create the police department and bring the fire department under the town’s umbrella while keeping the tax rate among the lowest in the state for towns of comparable size.
Biggers said the support Mint Hill shows toward military veterans is his proudest accomplishment.
“The way our town supports veterans and having the annual Veterans Day Breakfast, it is very gratifying to see how our town comes together to support the men and women who have served our country,” Biggers said.
When the town went to a town manager form of government, Mint Hill was the largest town in the state without a manager.
“I think the town manager form of government has proven to be very beneficial for the town,” Biggers said. “It really has limited the amount of politics involved with the daily operation of the town. That has been good for the town. It seemed like the mayor was able to make more decisions without input from the board and the staff. My feelings are we get a whole lot more facts and figures from our professional staff before we make decisions than we used to. Before, it was left to the board and the mayor, and it was limited by how much time and energy they were willing to put into a project or do research.’’
When Biggers became mayor, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was paid to provide protection to the town but CMPD would only commit to two officers a day. Biggers said he thought the town could get more bang for its buck with its own police department.
“When I first got on the board, I sensed we could find a more efficient way of having our area policed, getting more coverage and more for our money” Biggers said. “The contract with Charlotte was going up thousands and thousands of dollars a year. We had a study my first year as mayor and it came back and said, ‘You really need to go to your own police department.’ We got more coverage and better coverage and it was a bargain for our money.’’
During his tenure as mayor, the town built the current town hall and the police station moved into the old town hall after major renovations. Biggers said the timing of building a new town hall and police station, which cost $5 million, was perfect. The town hall opened in August 2012.
“We did both of those projects without having to borrow any money, and that was very satisfying,” Biggers said. “We saved money by doing those projects during a recession. I’m proud of that.’’
Biggers has always been known as a fiscal conservative and said being a good steward of taxpayers’ money has always been a priority. Biggers pointed out last year during a board of commissioners meeting that he had been on the board for 20 years and there hadn’t been one tax increase.
“When I went on the board and ran for mayor, one objective of mine was to keep our taxes low,” Biggers said. “I felt like our tax rate was high enough and our revenues were high enough and if you control spending, you can keep the tax rate at a constant level. We have managed to do that, and I think the citizens have appreciated that. It proves, just like your personal budget, if you control your expenses you can save money and pay for things.’’
Commissioner Mike Cochrane said the town will miss Biggers’ leadership.
“There have been a lot of good accomplishments that Ted has led us through,” Cochrane said. “The mayor is basically the leader of the board of commissioners and the vision that your mayor has should be looked at by the board. Everybody has their own opinions and everybody has a vote, but I think that you should have the same vision as your mayor if at all possible. Ted has done as much for Mint Hill as any mayor that we have had.’’
During his tenure, Biggers often worked on issues with other municipal leaders, especially Matthews. His advice was also sought after from newly elected officials in the region.
“I often get calls about projects other towns are doing,” Biggers said. “We have always had a real close relationship with Matthews. When I got on the board, Lee Myers was the mayor of Matthews. Lee and I are both from Mecklenburg County, we graduated from high school the same year, we knew each other, we like each other and we had similar political views. Everything we do affects Matthews and everything they do affects us.’’
And what advice would Biggers give to the next mayor?
“We have a really good staff down at town hall,” Biggers said. “We have great employees and they do a great job. And how I judge that is that if people get mad and they are upset with something, they will say, ‘By golly, I am going to call the mayor.’ I get very, very few complaints in this town. Most people know I am accessible, and if there were a lot of complaints, I think I would be receiving them. My advice (to the board) is we have good people, so leave them alone and let them do their job.’’
Changing of the guard
People interested in running for commissioner and mayoral races in Matthews and Mint Hill in 2019 have to file paperwork to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections between noon July 5 and noon July 19. Richard Newton, Brad Simmons and Karen Trauner told Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly about their intent to run for mayor. Mint Hill also will have at least two newly elected commissioners come November, with Richard “Fig” Newton seeking the mayor’s seat and Mickey Ellington, who was appointed last year, not running.