CHARLOTTE – Pat Cotham has been the top vote-getter among at-large candidates for Mecklenburg County commissioner since 2012. As she campaigns for a fourth term, she hopes citizens continue to reward her with their votes.
“I have a very strong voice,” Cotham said. “I stand up when others don’t. I ask tough questions. I do not mind being by myself on issues and I stay close to the people… I think it’s important to be a voice for them on the board.”
As an advocate for the people, Cotham said she does not have a personal agenda. Rather, her “agenda” is based on citizens’ concerns.
She said the top issue in the county, according to data, is affordable housing.
“We have to keep pressure on to help the city and work collaboratively with the city and the towns to create more affordable housing and transportation that goes with it,” Cotham said.
But she knows she can’t do it alone. Cotham said she is proud the commission has made an effort to look into the issue and try to understand it better, as well as partner with the city. She wants to continue to do this.
The issues of affordable housing, homelessness, crime and other concerns in the county are all complex and interconnected. She has taken the time to research as much as she can on the issues.
“Until we as a community understand the complexity and interconnectedness of these things, we’re never going to get them solved,” Cotham said. “You can’t just build homeless shelters and put people in there and say, ‘we’re done.’ It’s much more complex than that. I continue to study the issues and try to see things first hand.”
Her desire to research and understand the context of a situation to move forward comes from her background in journalism, in which she has a bachelor’s degree.
“I go deep into asking questions and trying to figure out how we got here,” Cotham said. “What happened and how do we move to another place? That perspective really helps me analyze and research issues. I’m very curious. I’m always wondering why and how things happened.”
Cotham plans to continue to ask these questions to resolve issues throughout the county, like recent crimes at the Arboretum in the south Charlotte area, which she said residents have called her about.
She has attended swearing-in ceremonies of elected officials in the northern and southern parts of the county and has started to form relationships with those officials.
“I hope to work with them and attend their meetings to better understand issues that they’re dealing with and see how the county can support them,” Cotham said.
Cotham’s passion for advocating for the people started when she worked at a nonprofit. At the time, she had gotten divorced and dissolved her business and felt lost. By trusting her faith, she was led to an opportunity in which she helped formerly incarcerated people find jobs. Though this job, she saw issues people faced first hand.
“I saw the struggles of so many people who were trying to do the right thing, yet they continued to get rejected,” Cotham said. “They did not know how to cope with issues and they did not have anybody in their family or their community who they could go to and point them in the right direction. These were human issues and that was what the county handled.”
Despite being passionate about helping people, Cotham said she never saw herself running for office. Cotham’s daughter, Tricia Cotham, served on the North Carolina House of Representatives, which made her think there could not be two legislators in the family. However, when Cotham spoke to her daughter about it, her daughter encouraged her to run.
Since getting elected, Cotham said she has been visible in the community and a voice for the people. She wants to continue to do that if she is reelected.
“I have a strong track record,” Cotham said. “I will stand up for the people, even if I stand alone. I have done that numerous times. I am fearless and I am available.”