by Ciera Choate
SouthPark-area voters will have a second chance July 17 to pick which Republican candidate will face Paula Harvey in the general election for District 5 of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners.
Sarah Cherne and Matthew Ridenhour will face each other for the second time since May’s District 5 primary where the two surpassed Bill Griffin and Ken Lindholm in the fight to claim Neil Cooksey’s seat on the board. Ridenhour took about 34 percent of the vote, followed by less than 300 votes by Cherne, at 33 percent.
Building up to the run-off election, neither candidate decided to change their strategy and are both still working to build up a solid grassroots following in the district.
“We’ve just been organizing our team and getting prepared to spread the word and just basically reaching out to our voters with some messaging about the runoff and share with them my endorsements,” Cherne said. District 5’s Cooksey and former District 5 commissioner Dan Bishop endorsed Cherne for the upcoming election.
Ridenhour is taking the same approach to prepare for the run-off election. “We’re doing what we did before because what we did before worked and allowed us to get the top vote,” he said of his slim standing atop the May primary.
Both candidates are making phone calls, walking neighborhoods and hosting events with the help of their volunteer teams to prepare for the election. It’s their different experiences and backgrounds that set them apart from one another.
“I believe that I’ve got the history with the community. I’ve lived in District 5 most of my life. I know the community very well. I’ve got that network in Charlotte and that community,” Ridenhour said. “I’ve got leadership through my activities in the Marine Corps. I’ve got the leadership to stand up and take a strong stance on an issue. I’m also the solution-driven candidate. My message addresses the issues and gives solutions.”
Although Cherne has never been involved in the political realm like Ridenhour, who ran for a Charlotte City Council At-Large seat in 2009, she has held leadership positions in many organizations. She served as CEO for Big Brother Big Sisters of the Greater Charlotte area, executive director of the Great Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross and many other positions. Her experience in those positions are why Cherne thinks she is qualified to be county commissioner.
“I’ve built and led from million dollar budgets,” she said. “I have experience working with people with differing opinions. I understand the ramifications in the social work. I also pay taxes and own property in our precinct.”
Both Cherne and Ridenhour are focused on the same issues: finding a way to help the people living in District 5 with the property tax revaluation, the budget, tax rates and the changes taking place in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
“I want to be the voice of the people and serve the people, and those people who voted for me really recognized that,” Cherne said.
The recent revaluation of property values in Mecklenburg left many families unable to afford their new tax rates, pushing them to advocate for the county to take a second look at the process.
“We see people everyday that are having to put their house on the market because their taxes have gone up 30 or 40 percent, and that’s really unacceptable. Our community should not be driving people out because of taxes,” Ridenhour said.
With Cherne’s family currently going to the Board of Equalization and Review to discuss the revaluation of their home, she feels she’s got a personal connection to the people in her district going through the same thing.
Ridenhour may not have that same connection to the revaluation process, but he’s developed a plan he feels will prevent this problem from coming up again. “Going forth, every time we do a revaluation we need to hire an outside party to do it because the government needs more money to fund their programs, so there can be some bias. Hopefully an outside company wouldn’t have that bias,” he said.
Another area Ridenhour plans to focus on is the budget and making cutbacks where it’s necessary to keep tax rates low in the county. The new change he will work toward is zero-based budgeting where each line item has to be justified in order to receive that funding again. Cherne also plans to hold every part of the government accountable for the money they are receiving.
“I think that we need to do more practice where we’re holding the (organizations) accountable for the dollars we expend. I think that’s a very important part of my platform,” Cherne said. “We want to ensure tax dollars we are taking from residents in the community are being used wisely.”
The runoff election is July 17 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Find more information on the election and voting stations at the Mecklenburg County Board of Election’s website, www.charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/BOE.