CHARLOTTE – Leigh Altman has spent her legal career advocating for various groups of people, from families being discriminated against in housing to adults with disabilities. Still, she didn’t feel it was enough.
“I loved those jobs and felt really proud of the work I did, but I often felt like I hadn’t moved the needle for people as much as I thought the situation really required,” Altman said. “That was frustrating. I just wanted to be able to do more.”
Altman began learning more about the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. Altman felt she could make an even bigger difference in the county at the policy level, so she entered the at-large commissioner race last month.
In addition to her work as a lawyer, Altman is also a mother of two Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students.
“Because of both of my commitments at a lawyer and as a mother, the work of the board is very personal,” Altman said.
If elected, Altman’s top priorities will be the economic empowerment and health of families.
“We all are so focused on the fact that Charlotte came 50th out of 50 in upward economic mobility and I see a real opportunity to move the needle in that arena,” Altman said.
Altman would like to collaborate with CMS and other areas of local government to establish a pipeline that allows students to enter the workforce shortly after graduation.
She said almost one-quarter of CMS students do not graduate or attend college after graduating, but there are many jobs in the county’s tech, health and construction sectors that do not require a four-year degree. As a commissioner, she wants to spearhead efforts to make those jobs more accessible and available to students.
“With the construction boom in Charlotte, there’s a lot of great opportunities for good-paying jobs and I think the county needs to scale up already great efforts happening out in the community for developing that pipeline,” Altman said.
She is also passionate about mental health, access to female reproductive health, access to pre-K for all 4-year-olds and decreasing gun violence.
Through her work, she has seen a significant unmet need for mental health services in the county, especially in schools. She believes the number of mental health professionals in CMS schools is inadequate and would like to partner with the district to change that.
“That was true regardless of zip code, race or neighborhood,” Altman said. “There is a great deal of suffering that results from people not being able to get the basic care and support that they need.”
She also hopes to find creative ways to approach growing gun violence. She thinks partnering with the sheriff’s office and safe storage could help resolve the issue.
Altman also wants government officials, educators and those in law enforcement to understand the role “toxic stress brought on by poverty and racism can play a role in the lives of our residents” to refine their approaches to discipline and criminal justice.
Altman believes she has the energy and commitment to serve the entire county and hearing all residents’ concerns. She is concerned with overcrowding in Matthews and south Charlotte schools and recognizes residents’ concerns of obtaining adequate resources.
Altman calls herself a “bridge-builder” and likes to work collaboratively and form relationships. She believes this will be a strength when dealing with different issues around the county.
“The first part is to show up and the second is to build those relationships and to listen and learn from the residents about what their priorities are,” Altman said.
Altman believes her priorities and her existing positive relationships with commissioners, city council members and school board members set her apart from other candidates.
“We can’t do our work effectively for our residents without having strong overlapping programs and community services that are provided by the county commission, city council and the school board,” Altman said.
She believes her involvement in the community sets her apart. Altman serves on the Habitat for Humanity Revitalization committee and the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.