Out of everything Susan Rodriguez-McDowell has learned while on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners, one of the biggest realizations is that government moves slowly. The pace can be frustrating for a woman who describes herself as hardworking and engaged, but that’s why Rodriguez-McDowell seeking reelection – two years on the board is not enough.
“I feel like we made a lot of progress in my first term and it was very exciting to be a part of that, but there’s a lot more to be done,” Rodriguez-McDowell said. “I think I’ve learned so much about how it works that I’m really looking forward to a second term to be able to accomplish more.”
Rodriguez-McDowell, a Democrat, won the District 6 seat in 2018 by defeating 22-year incumbent Bill James. She will face Joel Levy, an attorney who lost to James in the 2016 Republican primary, in November. Early voting begins Oct. 15.
Rodriguez-McDowell lives in Charlotte with her husband, Gavin. The couple has three children; Kathryn is an architect, Maria is a senior and Gavin is a freshman, both at Appalachian State.
District 6 stretches throughout southern Mecklenburg County from the Steele Creek area, through Pineville, Ballantyne, Matthews and Mint Hill. The area has exploded in growth and diversity in the last 20 years, but as it changed, Rodriguez-McDowell said residents felt more and more underrepresented at the county level.
Since taking over as commissioner, Rodriguez-McDowell said she’s tried to show constituents what a good leader should be. The most noticeable difference is her physical presence in the community, she said.
“The people in my district see me and that means a lot to people and that means a lot to me that I get to hear what people are saying and what people are concerned about,” Rodriguez-McDowell said.
She has no problem working across the aisle and tries to not offend her constituents, either.
“When you are the person whose values are not being represented, its an awful feeling … to have your representative saying and spewing things that are offensive to you,” she said. “If you can have a representative who can speak without doing that, I think that’s a real change.”
Now more than ever, Rodriguez-McDowell said residents want leaders they can trust – people who rely on science, care about their needs, listen, respond and are approachable.
“That is one thing that has been laid bare during this pandemic,” she said. “People don’t know who to trust and I think that’s devastating to this community.”
Rodriguez-McDowell said District 6 can look to the past two years as reason to trust her to lead in a second term. She’s served on the health and human services committee, among others. She also helped make Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teachers the highest paid in the state; eliminated the child care subsidy wait for families; and supported funding for universal Pre-K.
Still, there’s more she wants to do with education, specifically infrastructure, overcrowding burdens, land acquisition and relations with the school board. She’s also on the environmental stewardship committee and before COVIID-19, was helping develop connectivity between county parks and greenways.
As board liaison for the domestic violence advisory board and the child fatality prevention and protection team, Rodriguez-McDowell has been working on a plan to build a family justice center. She said the facility would serve as a “one-stop shop” for people dealing with trauma and would house the district attorney’s office, mental health counselors, medical doctors and childcare.
The steering committee is in the process of putting public-private partnerships together and identifying land for potential construction.
“Thats a really exciting project that I would just be so privileged to be reelected to help work on that project still,” Rodriguez-McDowell said.
During her first budget retreat, Rodriguez-McDowell said commissioners made clear their number one priority would be reducing racial disparities in the county. She said the current board believes in working toward exposing those inequities and solving them. She hopes to continue that cause once reelected.
“It takes a unique vision to see that and work toward solving it,” Rodriguez-McDowell said. “It’s not a given that leaders are going to say, ‘That’s really important to me,’ and I would hate for our community to be turned back. I feel like we’re making progress and I’d hate for us to turn back.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why I won in 2018 was because our district has become so much more diverse than it ever was. The incumbent at the time didn’t really see that … I see that and I value that and I want to be a part of the solution in that arena.”
Visit www.mcdowell4meck.com to learn more about Susan Rodriguez-McDowell.