CHARLOTTE – Matthews Commissioner John Higdon admits it’s a little awkward running for mayor against incumbent Paul Bailey, someone he’s known for 25 years.
Higdon, who is serving his third term on the board, said he generally agrees with Bailey on most issues, but there are a few substantial disagreements he’s had with the mayor.
The most notable is House Bill 514, which allows Matthews to open and operate charter schools. While the bill doesn’t obligate the town to build a charter school, Higdon doubts it can be done without raising taxes. He’d like to see the town work with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in good faith for the benefit of children.
Higdon also disagreed with a rezoning decision last year that will allow a housing development at 269 S. Trade St. Higdon thought the town should buy the property and convert it to a park.
He’s proud of the board’s work enforcing the tree ordinance, as well as stopping the superstreet from being built along downtown Matthews.
“That would have been very bad, having another Independence Boulevard through our historic district,” he said.
Bailey may not have Higdon’s nod for reelection, but he points to support from the other five members of the board for his reelection to a second term.
His service to the town spans more than 30 years, including nine terms as commissioner, as well as a term on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education.
He wants to ensure growth happens in a “smart, carefully managed way” to maintain the town’s quality of life.
“I am dedicated to bringing the steady, serious leadership we need to keep the positive experience and quality of life we have all come to expect in Matthews,” Bailey said.
He’s played a role in the building of Matthews Town Hall and Library, restoration of the Community Center and Arts Center, Crews Road Recreation Center, Levine Senior Center, the Public Works Facility and Matthews Sportsplex.
Matthews commissioner race
With Higdon seeking the mayor’s seat and Chris Melton announcing he won’t seek reelection, the six-member Matthews Board of Commissioners could have at least two new members come December.
Barbara Dement, Jeff Miller, Kress Query and John Urban have each filed for reelection.
Dement, who is seeking her second term as commissioner, was raised in Mint Hill and has lived in Matthews for more than a decade.
Prior to getting elected in 2017, Dement served various roles with the Matthews HELP Center, Matthews Planning Board and Matthews Sister Cities International Association.
Dement said she believes in careful, balanced growth while maintaining small-town feel.
“Our quality of life is important to everyone and should always be a key consideration in everything done by our town government,” she said.
Miller has served on the board for six terms.
“We have accomplished a lot, but there is always more to do,” Miller said. “Fact is, the ‘Matthews preserve and protect before it’s too late group,’ really wants to preserve what this and prior boards have created – a small town that is walkable, attractive and filled with fine people attending free concerts and festivals.”
Miller is proud the greenway he fought so hard for years ago continues to grow through connections to the sidewalk system, as well as the success of the Matthews Sportsplex.
He’s looking forward to a multi-use path along Sam Newell Road to make the north side of town more pedestrian-friendly.
Query, who is retired, served as Matthews mayor from 1969 to 1974, as well as town commissioner from 1993 to 2015. He returned to the board in 2017. He could not be reached for comment for this story.
Urban, who works in architecture and planning, is seeking a fifth term as commissioner. Urban said he uses skills honed from his career and years of service to safeguard a small-town quality of life.
“I am able to work from an educated and informed position to review proposals from developers who seek rezoning approvals,” Urban said. “I am dedicated to ensuring each project meets the strict design standards for which our town is so well known.”
Urban serves on the board of directors for the Matthews Free Medical Clinic and Matthews Historical Foundation. He co-chairs the Red Brick Partnership.
The race has attracted five challengers so far: Dave Bland, Allen Crosby, Renee Garner, Ken McCool and Mark Tofano.
Bland, who owns a law firm downtown, has injected intrigue into the race. He was elected four times to the board, beginning in the early 1980s.
“My wife said if I ran again she was going to divorce me. That put an end to my political career,” Bland said. “I think our kids have all grown up now, and she’s ready to kick me out of the house.”
Bland brings 40 years of law experience, as well as institutional knowledge about the town. He was there when Matthews converted to a town manager form of government and fought against a landfill on land that eventually became the sportsplex.
Crosby was among the 10 candidates that campaigned for Matthews commissioner for the 2017 election. Since then, he’s served on the Matthews Board of Adjustment. He could not be reached for comment for this story.
Garner grew to prominence on a grassroots level when she spoke out against the N.C. Department of Transportation’s superstreet project along John Street. She sees an opportunity to bring a fresh voice to the board of commissioners.
“I have kids who are school age and feel that’s a group that needs representing,” Garner said. “But I also think I’d bring new opportunities to engage the public because I have a history of working with the community on transportation issues.”
She thinks the town needs to approach issues of traffic and affordable housing with various solutions, such as working with the Charlotte Area Transit System to increase mobility.
She’d believes discussions regarding the town’s relationship with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools needs a parent’s voice. She also believes in preserving small-town charm while growing as a community.
McCool, who was born and raised in Matthews, compares election nights to Super Bowls.
“The people who make the change and affect the day-to-day life are your commissioners and mayor,” McCool said. “That’s why I think it’s so important that people get to know their local politicians.”
McCool said he understands issues from a younger person’s point of view. He works as a painting subcontractor while taking a full course load at Central Piedmont Community College.
His platform consists of preserving small-town charm while initiating responsible development and improving infrastructure. He took issue with the idea of putting a superstreet through downtown.
Tofano, a semi-retired consultant and entrepreneur, has worked to promote the idea of activism in the community through his brainchild, MatthewsTalks.org. The culmination of activism, he says, is getting elected to serve.
The tipping point for Tofano’s desire to run was during the Dec. 8, 2018, commissioners meeting, which Tofano describes as “the attempt to infringe on our freedom of speech and intimidate public speakers.”
He wants to ensure the people have a voice in their local government.
“The primary responsibility of an elected official, in my opinion, is to conduct themselves in a way and have their decisions and deliberations totally in favor of the citizens and what they desire,” he said.
Mint Hill Mayor
Ted Biggers has decided not to run for an 11th term as Mint Hill mayor, opting to spend more time with his family.
So far, Brad Simmons is the only candidate to officially enter the race, though Commissioner Richard “Fig” Newton and Karen Trauner have also expressed interest in the seat.
Since announcing his plans to run at the start of the year, Simmons has been attending social events asking people what they like about Mint Hill and what they don’t like about the town. The feedback he’s getting will shape his platform.
“I’m here to serve the people of Mint Hill, so I let them set the agenda,” Simmons said. “I intend to work with them to fix some of the opportunities they see that Mint Hill needs to take care.”
Simmons, a small business owner, serves on the Mint Hill Planning Board.
Mint Hill Commissioner
At least two new faces will join the four-seat Mint Hill Board of Commissioners, as Richard “Fig” Newton is expected to file for mayor and Carl “Mickey” Ellington will not seek reelection.
Mike Cochrane, who is finishing his first term as commissioner, has not filed for reelection, leaving Dale Dalton as the only incumbent so far.
“I love this town,” Dalton said of his reason for seeking a third term. “Having two new seats coming up this term, I felt like we definitely needed to have some experience on there.”
Dalton is proud of approving a budget that allowed the town to add five new officers and three new firefighters, as well as providing the police department incentives that lead to better trained officers.
He personally worked with the N.C. Department of Transportation to study and approve traffic lights on N.C. 51 and I-485 to improve mobility. These projects just need to get funding.
Dalton is involved in groups like the Mint Hill Historical Society, Mint Hill Masonic Lodge and the Mint Hill Lions Club.
Jessi Healey is the only challenger to step forward so far.
When Commissioner Tina Ross died, Healey felt as if there was a hole in the community. Having looked up to Ross and worked with her on her last campaign, Healey wants to help fill that void.
“My campaign is mostly based on community-led change,” Healey said. “Mint Hill is growing and we’re changing. I want to make sure the community voice is being heard in that and that Mint Hill is becoming what we want it to become.”
Being involved in social media management, she sees opportunities for the town to be more proactive in that exchange between the community and government.