MECKLENBURG COUNTY (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Election Day is Tuesday for many municipalities around the state, including most in the Charlotte area.
It’s time to decide who will be making decisions on growth and development, law enforcement and fire services, parks, education and more.
Here are three key races in Mecklenburg County that will play significant roles in shaping how our local governments operate:
Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board (At-large)
Who can vote: Entire county
Breakdown: There are two current school board members not running for reelection, including chair Elyse Dashew. This means there will be at least two new members — and a new leader — joining the CMS governing body.
Last November, voters elected the six district-specific board members. There was heavy turnover then, with only one incumbent – Thelma Byers-Bailey — winning a bid, and two others who didn’t run for reelection.
Jennifer de la Jara joins Dashew as at-large members not seeking another term. In August, Dashaw cited the challenges of making unprecedented decisions related to in-person or remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The stakes were so high, lives were at stake, and education, and livelihood of our employees,” adds Dashew. “Absolutely no training, and nothing to refer back to as far as how to do this.”
Lenora Shipp is the lone at-large incumbent running this year.
The race has gained statewide attention with the three candidates running under the CMS Unity banner. Though the race is non-partisan, Michael Johnson Jr., Annette Albright and Claire Covington all have the same treasurer with a history of working for high-profile Republican candidates.
The remaining candidates are: Peggy A. Capehart, Bill Fountain, Juanrique Pallamente Hall, Omar Harris, Shamaiye Haynes, Brian Kasher, Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel, Liz Monterrey, Clara Kennedy Witherspoon and Monty Witherspoon.
Like many school districts throughout North Carolina, CMS has especially struggled with teacher retention, bus drivers and pay. Dr. Crystal Hill is in her first year as permanent superintendent; her “goals and guardrails” were approved by the board last week.
Also, CMS-related, Mecklenburg voters face a $2.5 billion school bond. It would cover the construction of renovation for 30 schools.
Charlotte City Council (District 6)
Who can vote: District 6 residents (south Charlotte — north of McAlpine Creek, south of Sedgefield/Dilworth/Elizabeth)
Breakdown: In a rematch of a tightly contested summer 2022 race, Stephanie Hand is again looking to unseat incumbent Tariq Bokhari. Last year, Bokhari defeated Hand with just 50.9 percent of the vote, and a total of 357 votes.
Bokhari is one of two Republicans on the 11-person City Council, so if the Democrat Hand wins, that would leave just one (Ed Driggs). Though comprising much of Charlotte’s wealthier “wedge” the area has demonstrated a tilt politically, from Republican stronghold to developing Democratic-leaning neighborhoods.
In July, Bokhari told Queen City News that he would focus on campaigning more this time around. Meanwhile, Hand was confident that she would receive similar support.
Bokhari is the executive director of a local financial technology company, Carolina Fintech Hub. He is on the QC East development team that partnered with Eastland Yards on the former Eastland Mall site. Hand is an ordained clergy in the United Methodist Church.
Who can vote: All residents of Huntersville
Breakdown: There will be new mayor in Huntersville for the second straight election. After serving one term that followed time on the Board of Commissioners, Melinda Bales will be running for a spot in the state House of Representatives.
There are three well-known candidates in town that are trying to lead Mecklenburg County’s second largest municipality.
Dan Boone and Derek Partee are currently members of town board, seeking to move up. Boone has been on board since 2015, and Partee was first elected in 2021.
Then there’s Christy Clark, who as a Democrat served N.C. House District 98 from 2019-2021. After defeating John Bradford in 2018 by a slim margin, Bradford took the seat back in the next election. The mayor position is non-partisan.
Like many Charlotte suburbs, Huntersville faces crucial growth-related decisions. Despite growing by 35 percent from 2010 to 2022, the town still has lots of space for development, especially on its east side.
That’s where a proposed development put town leadership – and residents — squarely in the spotlight this summer. The Lagoona Bay project faced heavy criticism, and Partee emerged as an internal whistle-blower of sorts. He showed he was not afraid to call out fellow board members’ communication with developer Jake Palillo.
Clark says she abides by the Huntersville 2040 Community Plan that was finalized this year.
Boone has demonstrated support for police department funding, and is on the North Mecklenburg Crime Stoppers board.
Partee is a retired detective from Long Island, New York, prior to coming to Huntersville.
The Huntersville Board of Commissioners could have wholesale changes, with 17 people field for five positions.