MATTHEWS – Paul Bailey likes it hot. Mark Tofano prefers it cold. Barbara Dement enjoys a hazelnut latte, while water is just fine for John Higdon and John Urban.
Each has taken the time to record an episode of Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly’s election podcast “Coffee with a Candidate.” The first five episodes, ranging from seven to 15 minutes, can be found on Anchor, Google Podcasts and Spotify.
Future episodes will include Renee Garner, Dave Bland and others, but here’s a taste of what the candidates featured so far have talked about on their respective episodes.
Episode 1: Mark Tofano
Tofano bought a house on South Trade Street in 2012, but a nearby rezoning that increased the density around his home prompted him to run for commissioner. He also saw an opportunity for increased transparency among town leaders.
“The most important thing (commissioners) do is to make sure the citizens of Matthews have a plan in place so that they have responsible growth,” Tofano said.
He wants to see Matthews get away from being a bedroom community to Charlotte. This requires high-paying jobs.
Tofano would like for residents to have the ability to walk or bike safely and comfortably within town limits.
He also wants to see a better relationship with the school district, more affordable housing and increased cultural and economic diversity in downtown Matthews.
Episode 2: Barbara Dement
Dement, a native of Mint Hill, moved to town in 2007. She’s come to the end of her first term as a commissioner after serving on the planning board.
As a commissioner, she strives to be fiscally conservative while ensuring the town stays safe as it grows. She’s proud of adding staff to the police and fire departments. She also noted how town leaders have increased outreach efforts through recording meetings, chatting with residents on Facebook Live and holding coffee meet-ups with constituents around town.
“I have found it such an honor to be a public servant in this town,” she said. “I have found it a passion of mine to be a voice for all the people, to listen to all the people and do what’s right for the town.”
Episode 3: John Urban
Urban has lived in Matthews for about 22 years. He’s served eight years as a town commissioner, as well as eight years on the appearance and tree board.
With the guarantee of three new commissioners joining the board, Urban said it’s important to keep the incumbents in office to ensure consistency in leadership.
His goal for the next term is to stay the course and ensure slow, methodical, smart growth, as well as tend to the economic development of the town. He takes pride in how downtown Matthews became a destination within a span of five years.
“A lot of folks talk about the small-town feel,” Urban said. “I’m not so sure it’s about the architecture, which is near and dear to my heart. It’s about the fact you can walk down the street and you know people and recognize names and faces.”
Episode 4: Paul Bailey
Bailey’s experience with the town dates back to 1986. He’s served 18 years as a town commissioner, four years on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and two years on the county parks and recreation board.
In his two years as mayor, he’s proud the town got the N.C. Department of Transportation to push back the East John Street widening project, which was slated to be a superstreet.
Bailey stressed the importance of securing the funding to make John Street more like East Boulevard with two lanes, a median, trees and a multi-use path. He believes commuter traffic should be directed to U.S. 74 and I-485 rather than through downtown.
He also wants to focus on creating a continuous loop of greenways in downtown and extending them into the outer areas.
Episode 5: John Higdon
Higdon, who is in his third term as commissioner, talked about how the board’s support of a state bill that allowed for municipal charter schools, as well as a rezoning decision at South Trade Street, influenced his decision to run for mayor.
“I think in these two cases our current mayor did drive the vote in the wrong direction,” he said. “That’s why I’m running.”
In terms of his work on the board, Higdon is proud to have played a role in strengthening the enforcement of the tree ordinance, as well as expanding greenways and green spaces to allow for more walking and riding bikes.
As mayor, he’d like to restore a collaborative relationship with CMS. Higdon notes how he was the loudest critic of building a superstreet along Monroe Road and how he wants to see more family-oriented uses downtown.
Editor’s note: We’ll notify readers of future episodes in the newspaper’s News Briefs section. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for links to podcasts.