The man who has helped guide Pineville’s future since the 1990s is getting ready to step away from the role he’s committed 20 years to, but that doesn’t mean his influence on Pineville will be lost.
Mayor George Fowler will soon give up his seat after falling short by just 12 votes to challenger Jack Edwards in the Nov. 5 election. Fowler, who is currently the longest-standing mayor in Mecklenburg County, has served the town in several different capacities, first with the Parks and Recreation advisory committee, then as a town councilman for one term, mayor from 1981 to 1983, and then mayor again for nine straight terms starting in 1995.
Fowler, who spent first through fifth grade in Pineville and has always called Mecklenburg County home, moved back to the town in 1968, building a home and planting roots.
“Pineville is a real unique town for those of us who live here and were raised here. It’s literally like Mayberry on television, with that genuine hometown feel,” Fowler said. “I just feel so fortunate to have spent five years of life in Pineville as a kid and then the majority of my adult life, as well.”
It’s that hometown feel and love for the town and its people that led Fowler to give so many years of service to the town. A Pineville business owner in his own right, Fowler was urged by residents to run for mayor again in the 1990s. His first term as mayor proved to be harder than expected, he said, working to balance his business, politics and family.
But in the 1990s, after former Mayor Bill Blankenship decided to not seek re-election, residents urged Fowler to run for the seat again.
“I don’t know why I was pulled into doing it,” Fowler said. “I felt like there were people wanting me to run, and I felt like I would be letting them down if I didn’t. I’ve always had a strong love for this town – a passion, really.”
It’s that passion that has kept Fowler in leadership of the town for so long, he said, and the longing to preserve the old-town Pineville feel and atmosphere. Under his leadership, the town has seen exponential growth, from just 700 single-family homes in 1995 to nearly 3,000 today.
“There was a lot of interest from developers to turn vacant land into commercial. Kmart was going to be mayor before that was over with,” he said, adding town leaders had to make a change instead of letting big box stores dictate town growth.
Fowler has been instrumental in ensuring the town has been fiscally responsible, he said, growing financial resources and finding approval for expansion of Pineville Electric and Telephone.
He advocated for the town when Mecklenburg County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools moved Pineville kids out of the South Mecklenburg High School zone. He helped push and support for a new Pineville Elementary School. He served as a mentor to numerous mayors in other towns and has worked to ensure Pineville is a business-friendly town.
“I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do and everything that makes up Pineville,” he said. “CMC-Pineville, the schools – I’m very proud of all that. I’m so thankful and feel so fortunate to have been able to serve as long as I have.”
And though his reign is coming to an end, Fowler won’t be going anywhere. He’ll still be around to help when needed, and could one day serve in different capacities. For now, he hopes to focus on his business and provide support for the town any way he can without getting in the way of the new leader.
“George’s workload this term really doubled because of all the transitions with being short-staffed,” Mayor Pro Tem David Phillips said. “And he’s served the town well in his capacity of mayor. It was an honor to serve with him, and he will be truly missed.”