MATTHEWS – During his two terms as Matthews town commissioner, John Higdon’s viewpoints have occasionally clashed with the presiding mayor – whether that be Jim Taylor or Paul Bailey. But after defeating Bailey in the Nov. 5 election, Higdon will be the one that presides over the meetings as mayor.
“Thanks to all my supporters and everyone who made it out to vote,” Higdon wrote on his Facebook campaign page. “We came out number one tonight!”
Higdon earned 53.57% of the 5,150 votes cast in handing Bailey a rare political defeat.
Bailey, who sought his second term as mayor, had been elected nine times as town commissioner and once on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education. He touted that experience heavily in his campaign.
One of Bailey’s campaign ads featured a photo of Higdon with cartoon bubbles agreeing with the mayor on several topics. But Higdon capitalized on the topics they disagreed on, such as the passing of House Bill 514 that prompted retaliation from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Higdon also flexed his sharp opposition to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plans to put a superstreet along John Street to connect with voters.
Recount pending in commission race
Renee Garner became active in town government after realizing how the N.C. Department of Transportation’s John Street widening project could affect downtown, including her yard. She helped spearhead the Preserve Matthews movement.
Garner was the leading vote-getter among the 11 commissioner candidates.
On the morning of the election, Garner wrote on her campaign Facebook page that the town needed new leadership.
“Our current council and mayor have worked as a force spoon-fed by big developers, special interests and they have worked to divide rather than to unite,” Garner wrote. “They are the truest definition of the word cronyism and you deserve much better than that which they have offered.”
Garner was the only one of the six people elected to the commission without prior experience in the role.
Incumbents Jeff Miller, Barbara Dement and John Urban were reelected, while former commissioners Dave Bland and Larry Whitley were given another opportunity to serve the town. Bland, an attorney, served four terms from 1985 to 1993, while Whitley, a pastor, served one term from 2015 to 2017.
The race was close, with each of the 11 candidates earning between 7.78% and 9.94% of the vote.
Urban edged Ken McCool out for the sixth and final seat on the board by a mere nine votes. McCool told supporters after the election that he planned to request a recount.
“Concerning the board of commissioners race, we are requesting a recount Wednesday morning,” McCool wrote. “Multiple seats have single-digit differences between them. Because of this, we have to be sure that absentee, provisional and curbside ballots are counted and that all votes are counted correctly.
“Elected or not, I am looking forward to remaining active in our community.”
Brad Simmons defeated Commissioner Richard Newton and Karen Trauner to succeed Ted Biggers as mayor. Simmons earned 45.51% of the 4,425 votes cast in the three-person race.
Simmons, a resident of the town for 35 years, has been engaged in a listening tour for the past several months. In addition to learning what voters cared about, he entered the election with experience on the town’s planning board and parks and recreation committee. He also earned an endorsement from Biggers.
“Thank you Mint Hill for your support in the election,” Simmons wrote to supporters. “I am truly honored and humbled and look forward to serving you in the next two years.”
Challengers Tony Long and Patrick Holton will join incumbents Dale Dalton and Mike Cochrane on the Mint Hill Board of Commissioners. Long and Holton are small business owners.
“To say I’m humbled would be an understatement,” Holton wrote to supporters on Facebook. “I value all the new friendships that have been made on this journey and look forward to making many more.”
Jessi Healey trailed Holton for the final seat by 101 votes. She thanked supporters on Facebook and said Simmons will make a great mayor.
“This has been a wonderful experience and I’m so happy to live Mint Hill,” Healey said.
Mecklenburg County voters rejected the sales tax for arts, parks and teacher supplements. Just over 57% of the 120,890 votes were against the measure.
Elyse Dashew earned a second term on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education. She was the leading vote-getter in a race in which 13 candidates vied for three at-large seats.
Jennifer De La Jara, who is the education director at International House, and retired CMS principal Lenora Shipp will join Dashew on the board.
Stephanie Sneed, a former trial attorney, was shut out of a seat by 187 votes. The remaining nine candidates were at least 5,000 votes behind.
Voter turnout was at 17.05% with 123,348 residents casting ballots.