What a difference a decade makes.
The 2010s started cautiously as Matthews, Mint Hill and Mecklenburg County tried to get through the remnants of the Great Recession. The county was looking at cutting library branches, while Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was ready to eliminate middle school sports.
Fast forward 10 years and the towns are trying to maintain their small-town feel amid of a steady flow of newcomers.
In 2009, John Higdon finished last among seven candidates vying for six seats on the Matthews Board of Commissions. Ten years later, he had the savvy to give Mayor Paul Bailey a rare political defeat. Other political titans, such as Ted Biggers, Jim Taylor and Bill James, are no longer in office.
Harris Teeter and Family Dollar used to be thought of as big fish in a small pond, but those Matthews companies were swallowed by even bigger fish. Downtown Matthews went from dead to having a craft beer scene.
The community celebrated the opening of Rocky River High School, Matthews Sportsplex and Mint Hill Town Hall. But it was the people that made the decade memorable. Here’s a look at the 100 biggest newsmakers from the past decade:
Sandy Barnett: Left Mint Hill chamber in 2017 after 10+ years as leader.
Kelly Barnhardt: Led Matthews chamber for nearly four years.
Roland Bibeau: Longtime Matthews hospital exec maintains ties to town.
John Bly: Aprio partner flexed expertise in fast growth through mergers.
Thomas Dickson: Harris Teeter CEO retired after Kroger acquired them.
Joy Greear: Oversaw 2018 opening of Mint Hill hospital.
Rob Jacik: Helped changed vibe of downtown Matthews through beer.
Howard Levine: Family Dollar CEO retired after Dollar Tree bought firm.
Alain Lillie: Ex-newspaper owner sought bonds for baseball stadium.
Paige McKinney: Succeeded Sandy Barnett as Mint Hill Chamber leader.
Tina Whitley: Grew Matthews chamber in 13-year run that ended in 2016.
Ann Clark: CMS leader championed 2017 school bond referendum.
John LeGrand: Strengthened Butler High after school shooting.
Mary McCray: Chaired CMS school board for most of decade.
Jerry McGee: Moved Wingate campus from Matthews to Ballantyne.
Sean Strain: School board rep clashed at times with establishment.
Tracey Harrill: Stayed as Providence High’s principal all decade.
Christy Morrin: Steered ship of two charter schools during decade.
Mark Nixon: Opened Rocky River High School as principal in 2010.
Kimberly Tuttle: CMS named her Teacher of the Year in 2019.
Clayton Wilcox: Upgraded CMS security after Butler High shooting.
June Bayless: Playhouse founder put spotlight on community theater.
Amy Carr: Free medical clinic director collaborated with other groups.
Amy Cervantes: Passed reins of Bright Blessings after 13 years.
Becky Griffin: Worked to enhance Mint Hill Historical Village.
Nate Huggins: Blessed Assurance CEO served on chamber boards.
Dahn Jenkins: She’s directed the Levine Senior Center all decade.
Paula Lester: Opening of heritage museum was among top achievements.
John Munro: Opened life center & celebrated 80 years of Calvary Church.
Lee Anne Moore: Organizes the behemoth Matthews Alive festival.
Kim Rhodarmer: Two assistance-based nonprofits thrived under her lead.
Natisha Rivera-Patrick: Habitat boss urged affordable housing & diversity.
Sue Sproat: COSKids expanded enrollment under her leadership.
Barbara Taylor: Researched origins of Tank Town for heritage museum.
Chuck Wilson: Pastor sought to bridge racial divides via Matthews UMC.
Hazen Blodgett: Manager oversaw key projects & hires in Matthews.
Charles Buckley: Matthews named a street after longtime town attorney.
Dena Diorio: County manager sought to expand services to towns.
Dennis Green: Oversaw major growth as Matthews fire & EMS chief.
Rob Hunter: Retired in 2017 after 24 years as Matthews police chief.
Kathi Ingrish: Oversaw development of long-term plans in Mathews.
Harry Jones: Led county amid recession; fired in 2013 & died in 2017.
Rob Kinniburgh: Has lead Matthews Fire & EMS since 2016.
David Leath: Integrating Mint Hill Fire Department under town.
John Lewis: CATS CEO got ball rolling on area light rail planning.
Tim Ledford: Served as Mint Hill police chief for entire decade.
Clark Pennington: Succeeded Rob Hunter as Matthews police chief.
Brian Welch: Manager opened a new town hall in Mint Hill.
Paul Bailey: Served as commissioner, mayor & school board rep.
Dave Bland: Returned to commission after 26-year absence in 2019.
Barbara Dement: Jumped from planning board to commissioner in 2017.
George Fossett: Appointed to fulfill rest of Joe Pata’s term in 2015.
Renee Garner: Before 2019 election win, fought John Street widening.
Suzanne Gulley: Died six years after finishing fifth board term in 2013.
John Higdon: Three-term commissioner became mayor in 2019.
Nancy LaFond Moore: Finished third & final term on board in 2013.
Chris Melton: Three-term commissioner steered many nonprofits.
Jeff Miller: Only Matthews commissioner to serve entire decade.
Joe Pata: Mayor pro-tem resigned in 2015 after arrested on assault charge.
Kress Query: Former mayor elected three times as commissioner.
John Ross: Joined commission in 2013 & re-elected in 2015.
Jim Taylor: Mayor earned Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2017.
John Urban: Elected as commissioner four times during decade.
Larry Whitley: First African American elected as commissioner in 2015.
Politics (Mint Hill)
Lloyd Austin: Longtime commissioner lost reelection bid after 2014 arrest.
Ted Biggers: Ended 20-year rein as Mint Hill mayor in 2019.
Mike Cochrane: Elected as a commissioner in 2017 & 2019.
Dale Dalton: Won his third term on the board in 2019.
Carl Ellington: After sendoff, he returned to finish Tina Ross’s term.
Patrick Holton: Easily the youngest face to join the board this decade.
Brenda McRae: Finished up eight years on the board in 2013.
Tony Long: Longtime chamber leader joined commission in 2019.
Richard “Fig” Newton: Ran for mayor after three terms as commissioner.
Tina Ross: Served as commissioner from 2003 until her death in 2018.
Brad Simmons: Won three-candidate race for mayor in 2019.
Politics (Beyond towns)
Dan Bishop: State senator went onto become congressman in 2019.
Bill Brawley: Legislator helped changed state’s road funding model.
Pat Cotham: At-large commissioner stays connected to towns.
Tricia Cotham: Matthews resident served in N.C. House until 2016.
Rachel Hunt: Defeated Bill Brawley in 2018 to win House 103 seat.
Bill James: Outspoken commissioner went silent after his 2018 loss.
Susan Rodriguez McDowell: Beat Bill James to become county commissioner.
Bob Rucho: The Matthews dentist served in state senate through 2016.
Chipp Bailey: The Matthews resident ended tenure as sheriff in 2014.
Joe Badgett: Celebrated two state titles with Carmel Christian hoops.
Sarah Billiard: The most decorated athlete in Covenant Day history.
Cierra Burdick: Played in WNBA after graduating from Butler in 2011.
Stephanie Butler: She coached Butler girls to a state hoops title in 2010.
Casey Carr & Chris Graham: Brought Stumptown Athletic to region.
Preston Davis: Led alma mater Independence to hoops title in 2018.
Brian Hales: His nine years as Butler football coach includes 2012 title.
Jim McPhilliamy: His USL club played home games at sportsplex.
Mike Newsome: Coached Butler to second undefeated football title in 2010.
Hakeem Nicks: Independence alum twice had 1,000-yard NFL seasons.
Mark Sanders: Shaped student-athletes in three sports at Butler High.
Brooklyn Decker: The Butler grad’s career took off with TV & film roles.
Sharon Decker: Fought for cleaner drinking water in Mint Hill.
Carol Hull: She helped to save library branches from closing.
Jordan Lloyd: The reality TV star was on “Big Brother” & “Amazing Race.”