Struggling for the spotlight in Meck Co. at-large race

Democrat candidates trying to separate themselves from crowded field

by Mike Parks

If you’re the kind of person who always wants a lot of options in life, look no further than the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners at-large race.

Seventeen candidates filed last month for the three at-large seats up for grabs. With Jennifer Roberts and Jim Pendergraph setting their sights on a job in Washington, D.C., and Harold Cogdell deciding its time to move on from the board, the race to the May 8 primary has become a battle of who can get the most name recognition the fastest – at least on the Democrat side of things. There’s 12 candidates for the three seats on that side of the aisle in a race that will change the look, and possibly direction, of the county commission.

So, take a little time to learn about the Democrat candidates, in alphabetical order:

• Paul Brown is just looking for a chance to “really be able to do my part in making Mecklenburg County one of the best counties in the nation.” To do that, Brown said it’s time to focus on getting the community more involved in what’s happening on the county politics level. “There’s far less involvement than there should be,” Brown said, especially from “the youth in the community.” Brown wants to use incentives to get businesses to hire in Mecklenburg County, wants to reduce the dropout rate at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and says more needs to be done to allow the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to hire more officers. Find more information on the candidate at his website,

• Pat Cotham is used to being a leader in the party. She’s a member of the Democratic National Committee and president of the Democratic Women in Mecklenburg County. But for this position, Cotham is more quick to tout her other position – that of a recruiter that works to find jobs for former inmates. “I look at these people, I talk to them and I see the struggles they face,” Cotham said of the people she works with. “I want them to have a quality of life, I want my neighbors to have a good quality of life… which means more jobs.” Cotham has a fundraiser coming up March 28 at the law offices of Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, at 301 E. Park Ave., where voters can meet her. Find more information on the candidate at her website,

• Jyoti Friedland is quick to tell you her main concern about Mecklenburg County: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. “For three years they haven’t got their raise, and to me that is unconscionable,” Friedland said of teachers. “We are always talking about the quality of education we want to give to the kids, but we aren’t taking care of the people giving that education and because of that they’re looking for second and third jobs, so how can they give the quality education that’s needed?” Friedland said she’s spoken to some teachers who are afraid to give their names because they’re worried about being fired if they complain. “Teachers are like second parents and we need to help them.” Find more information on the candidate at her website,

• Trevor Fuller’s also focused on education, but he has a different plan the candidate says can “solve some problems in our community.” Fuller, who serves on the board of directors of the Mecklenburg County Bar, feels technical and vocational training is key to educating students and helping the job market. “We have to focus on technical and vocational training for the jobs that are in our economy today so we have jobs in finances, technology, engineering and math,” Fuller said. “Lots of people can’t take advantage of those jobs because they don’t have those skills.” Fuller, who lives in south Charlotte’s Providence Crossing area, said he also wants to see more of a focus on creating incentives for companies already in Mecklenburg County to create jobs, instead of new companies coming in and bringing a number of employees with them. Find more information on the candidate at his website,

• Adam Geremia, who lives in the Madison Park area, said the news he’s been hearing on a number of county topics just isn’t good enough, and he wants to do something about it. One of his key focuses is property revaluation. Geremia, who said he has a lot of experience in mortgages, believes he could come up with “a pretty reasonable property revaluation process” that would do away with a lot of the problems homeowners have recently complained about. But Geremia also has another focus: coyotes. “It frustrates me when a group of citizens go to their leaders, when their small animals are being attacked and killed, and instead of us saying ‘OK, we can’t have wild animals running loose in the city’ we just say we can’t do anything about it?” Geremia is working on establishing a website. Until then, people can reach him at ­

• Marc Gustafson has lived in the Dilworth area for a while with his wife, and he hopes to raise children there one day. Before that, though, there’s some things he’d like to see changed about the local school system. “I think one thing that’s needed is more early childhood literacy,” Gustafson said. He’s proven his concern about such topics, having helped start the Guys Read after-school program for young men at the West Boulevard branch of the county library. He’s also an active volunteer with Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council, and currently is on the University of North Carolina Board of Visitors. It’s that history of service to the community Gustafson said he wants to continue on the county commission. Find more on the candidate at his website,

• Gregory Hunt is a small business owner, father and property owner, so he’s got a lot of interest in the future of the county. So, “rather than sit home and complain about things I see, I saw a good opportunity and time to get in the race and make a difference,” said Hunt, who believes he could help balance the board and get rid of what he says many see as acrimony on the current commission. Hunt has three main concerns: he wants to repair and maintain school facilities to make sure teachers and students stay safe and have what they need to succeed; he wants to provide more incentives to get companies to relocate in Mecklenburg; and he wants to provide more help for the needy in building up the marketable skills they need. The Ballantyne resident is hoping to possibly speak at the upcoming Ballantyne Breakfast Club meeting on April 14. Find more information on the candidate at his website,

• Craig Madans has been on the Democrat scene in Charlotte for a while, when he ran against Republicans Sue Myrick for the U.S. House and Pat McCrory for Charlotte mayor. He has a number of years serving on the city’s tree commission, and on several ad hoc committees, including one that helped save Bojangles Coliseum and development on the city’s east side. He also worked on a committee that brought district representation to the Charlotte school board. The entrepreneur and south Charlotte resident says he has the skills needed to improve CMS while dealing with calls from some to break the district into smaller pieces, while at the same time creating an environmentally friendly and safe community for kids to grow up in that will give people reasons to stay in Mecklenburg. As for the economy? “We need a stronger magnet to draw in small businesses,” Madans said. “It’s nice to have a Chiquita come into town, but it’s the small businesses, the entrepreneurs, the five-, 10- and 20-people businesses” that the county needs. Madans is working on a website, but in the meantime people can call him at 704-527-7660.

• Harry Taylor, like Madans, ran against Sue Myrick for the U.S. House, but he may be more well known for a critique he made of President George W. Bush at one of the president’s town hall forums that quickly made it’s way onto the internet. Since then, people have been asking him to get involved in politics, Taylor said, and now seemed the perfect opportunity for him to jump into a seat. “We can’t keep tearing communities apart,” Taylor said. “We can’t keep chopping holes in the boat and presume it’s not going to sink for you as well.” Taylor, who lives around Myers Park, has been working and mentoring kids for many years, and he says the county has “to find ways to bring young people into a place where they understand that they have an opportunity and they’re expected to participate in an economy and a community.” Taylor has a fundraiser planned on April 5 at the Myers Park Country Cub, around 6 p.m. Find more information on the candidate at his website, www.­

Democrat candidates Robert Hillman, Oronde McLean and Kim Michele Ratliff did not respond to multiple requests for comment from South Charlotte Weekly prior to the paper’s press deadline.

See next week’s issue of South Charlotte Weekly for a look at the four candidates in the running for at-large seats from the Republican Party, as well as the Libertarian candidate. South Charlotte Weekly will continue looking at individual races leading up to the May 8 primary.

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  1. Want to learn more about the race for County Commissioner at Large? Come meet candidate Marc Gustafson at the Big View Diner on Saturday March 24 from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. He’ll be talking about issues facing South Charlotte. For more information, please visit:

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