Crowded field for SouthPark-area commission seat

Both parties will see primary vote in District 5 race

by Mike Parks

With Neil Cooksey getting ready to step away from the Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners, the race to fill his south Charlotte District 5 seat should get interesting.

Six people are running for the seat – two Democrats and four Republicans – meaning both parties will face a primary vote May 8 that will pick a candidate each for November’s general election. It could be a year of upheaval for the board, with four current members stepping down after the election and three other commissioners facing challengers.

Things are wide open in District 5, where the Republican Cooksey has held the seat for two terms. And it’s in the Republican race – with Sarah Cherne, Bill Griffin, Ken Lindholm and Matthew

Ridenhour – where things will likely be most interesting.

“I’ve got two young kids in (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) and I’m concerned about their future,” Cherne said about the school system, something she says is at the top of her priority list as a candidate for District 5. She wants to see more accountability from the school system if the county is going to continue giving the system millions of dollars.

“The (school system) makes a request, we see if we can afford it and then we give them the money, but there’s no feedback or accountability to the commission,” Cherne said. “We need to get more feedback on why we’re raising taxes to give CMS more money and what’s the money being used for.”

Cherne has a number of meet-and-greets planned, and will be listing them all on her website, www.-sarahcherne.com. People also can meet the candidate at the drop-in meetings the Mecklenburg GOP has the first Tuesday of every month, typically held at the MeckGOP Headquarters at 1515 Mockingbird Lane in Charlotte from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Griffin has two priorities in life: be in business on his own (check) and serve his fellow man. Though he already serves through some of his nonprofit work and by being active at his church, Providence Baptist, Griffin would love to take that onto the bigger stage of county government.

“Certainly as a businessman, I want us to grow jobs in the economy (and) create a proactive atmosphere where every one has the ability to achieve,” Griffin said. But the businessman also wants to bring some professionalism to the board, where he says commissioners too often forget about stability and civility.

Griffin plans to have some events, fundraisers and even a BBQ coming up soon. He’ll post those on his website, www.votebillgriffin.com, when they’re ready.

Ken Lindholm felt the call to serve while listening to a pastor preach earlier this year about doing your part.

“… the prayer was about ‘Are we doing enough? Are we doing what we’re called to do?” Lindholm said. He’d been thinking about running when this helped him make up his mind. “We can all sit on the sideline and complain … but the bottom line is we have to get involved.”

Lindholm says it’s vital to make sure the money the county “is allocating toward education is appropriate and used the best way possible,” he said. He also wants to take a look at how taxes are being spent and make sure residents are getting the services they want and deserve, while also focusing on the community’s health and making sure the right housing and health services are in place for people in need.

He’s currently working on a website and to schedule some meet-and-greet opportunities in SouthPark, around South Mecklenburg High School and in Cotswold.

Matthew Ridenhour, a local Tea Party organizer, wants to bring some strong Republican leadership to the commission with so many seats changing hands this November. He’s worked with the local leukemia and lymphoma group and volunteered with Boy Scout troops, having lived in Charlotte most of his life, and served the last 11 years in the Marine Corps Reserve as a platoon leader.

He’s focused on “taxes and spending and trying to rein in spending at all levels of government.” Ridenhour is in favor of zero-based budgeting, where you start each year at zero instead of from the last year’s budget number, and in a revenue negative budget. One of his biggest concerns is the ongoing property revaluation process. “It was a mess… it’s still a mess,” Ridenhour said of revaluation. “We have to make sure that in the future .. we have a solid process in place so there isn’t so much revaluation increases.”

Democrats Paula Harvey and Lisa Rudisill will face off in their primary, with Rudisill joining the race the day before filing closed last week to challenge Harvey.

Harvey’s always been a bit interested in taking on a leadership role like this, and now that her twins are off to college, now’s the time for the long-time human resources manager and educator to make it happen. She’s used to being in charge, be it in the classroom or while serving with the American Red Cross.

Harvey teaches at Central Piedmont Community College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Wingate University – while both her parents were educators – and as such has education on the brain when it comes to her campaign. But, “first thing has to be jobs and getting people back to work, and helping attract businesses to the Charlotte area,” Harvey said of her platform goals.

She plans on having a meet-and-greet with voters later this month at her home, then another in SouthPark around March 31. Visit her website, www.voteforpaulaharvey.com, for more.

Lisa Rudisill will battle Harvey for the Democrat’s spot on the ballot in November. The Charlotte native is a pastor, and lists helping the city’s homeless and children in need as a top priority.

She’s also a proponent of mass transportation, and has been involved with the Neighborhood Streetcar Project and the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization. “I would hope to do whatever I can to promote this in our district and across Charlotte,” Rudisill said. “Traffic is very bad and we need to save on gas usage locally, as well as nationally. Good mass transit makes good sense in large cities like Charlotte.”

South Charlotte Weekly will be taking a closer look at the other upcoming races in the following weeks, as well as running detailed candidate surveys for all the races prior to the primaries in May. Find out more on this year’s election on pages 16 to 18.

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