Every Pineville candidate running in the Nov. 5 election came together for a debate earlier this month to help separate themselves from the crowd in a race to win the mayoral and town council seats – every seat on the council is up for grabs.
The Pineville Pilot partnered with Pineville’s Downtown Merchants Association to host the event Oct. 9. All three candidates for mayor and seven candidates for the four open council seats attended the event.
The three mayoral candidates had the chance to discuss topics like town-county consolidation, partnerships with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and expectations for the new administrator, Haynes Brigman, who will officially start this December. The hiring of a town administrator has been a hot topic this campaign season, since the position has been vacant for more than a year. Council hit a dead end in the position earlier this year, after negotiations with a different candidate ended when he accepted a position elsewhere.
But after the town hired current interim administrator Ed Humphries to temporarily fill the seat, town leaders were able to refocus their attention on filling the seat permanently.
Though the new hire is young, current Mayor George Fowler, who is seeking re-election, said Brigman has the qualities needed to be
successful in the job. But, like any new position, there will be a learning curve in the beginning.
“We have to be on the same page moving forward,” Fowler said.
Other mayoral candidates John “Jack” Edwards and Libby Boatwright expressed concern earlier this campaign season that the administrator position was still vacant. Now that the position is filled, both expressed more concerns over whether the new administrator has the skills and qualities needed to get the job done, and whether council will give the administrator leeway to do his job.
“My concern is that will he have the authority to do what is necessary?” Edwards said.
“If he is as good as we think he is, he should hit the ground running,” Boatwright added. Find more information on Brigman on page 1.
All seven candidates for council, including the four incumbents, had their run at several topics, as well. Incumbent Melissa Rogers Davis and Kevin Icard, former town planner of Pineville, discussed town branding and marketing, annexation and the role of government in business. During his time working for the town, Icard helped implement and design the town’s current wayfinding system, but both Icard and Rogers Davis said there is still more to be done.
“The wayfinding signs could probably be a little better. We need to have more curb appeal and do more to market ourselves,” Rogers Davis said.
When it comes to the role of town council working to improve area businesses, the line can be difficult to navigate, Icard said, and cautioned future council leaders to implement rules and regulations that won’t push people away from the town.
“Business owners talk, and they know to stay away if council is against them,” Icard said. “We need to have a working relationship with our businesses.”
Rogers Davis said efforts should be put into creating stronger partnerships between the town, landlords and the Downtown Merchants Association when it comes to bringing in new businesses and filling vacant lots on Main Street, another hot topic this election.
Incumbent Les Gladden and former council member Jim Eschert discussed amenities in Pineville and whether areas like Lake Park should remain free to nonresidents. Some town leaders, spearheaded by Rogers Davis, are working to bring a public library back to Pineville, Gladden said. Other amenities like Lake Park are great assets to community members, he added, but parks and recreation staff are constantly dealing with and cleaning up after park goers who may not live in the town. It gets to be too much, Gladden said, noting that many other towns and Mecklenburg County charge to use their facilities.
But Eschert doesn’t want to see people discouraged from visiting the town, he said.
“Our town website invites people to come into town and enjoy it. People are what make a town,” Eschert said. “I want people in Pineville.”
Cone Mill was a topic of discussion for incumbents David Phillips and Debbie Fowler, as was topics about more communication from the town with residents. Much to contrary belief, town leaders have done a lot with Cone Mill, Phillips said, adding the ultimate outcome of the mill lies in the hands of the owner, who hasn’t been the easiest person to work with up until this point.
“My vision has always been pedestrian foot traffic,” Phillips said.
Fowler agreed, adding there have been proposals for the town to invest in the mill, but in order to do that, there first has to be viable plans.
When it comes to communication, Fowler and Phillips both noted current council has been working to improve the town website, and encourage residents and organizations to look to the newsletter for information. Advertising efforts could be better, they said, and Fowler notes a recent study by Parks and Recreation as an effort to communicate more with residents.
“There is a lapse in communication, and I think we can do that better,” Phillips said.
Al Baskins, a candidate for town council, renounced his candidacy at the debate and did not participate, but has since decided to continue in the race. Election Day is Nov. 5. Find your polling place at the Mecklenburg Board of Elections website at www.meckboe.org.