Clodfelter makes himself at home in Ballantyne

54Local residents learned more about the city’s troubled relationship with Raleigh during a special meeting of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club with Mayor Dan Clodfelter.

Clodfelter, appointed earlier this year to serve the remainder of former Mayor Patrick Cannon’s term after Cannon was arrested on corruption charges, has unique insight into arguments between Charlotte and the state capital. The former Charlotte City Council representative spent some 15 years in the North Carolina Senate before being appointed mayor in April.

His understanding of the state’s two biggest players was on display Tuesday, June 10, as he discussed control of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and frustration from city leaders about recent North Carolina General Assembly actions.

“It’s been a busy day in the legislature,” Clodfelter said at the Ballantyne meeting, referencing a “new round of unexpected airport legislation” that has city officials worried about the future of Charlotte-Douglas.

“It used to be … you dealt with state issues in the General Assembly because there were plenty of them and there was enough to do to keep you busy, and you let local government run local government,” Clodfelter added, touching on a concern of many North Carolina municipalities that Raleigh is wrestling away power from town and city leaders.

Clodfelter said traveling and living in Raleigh four nights a week for the past 10 years gave him a sense of the Triangle community, but “the road back to a good working relationship is not going to be overnight,” Clodfelter said.

Clodfelter told the council after being appointed that just because he worked with the state legislature for a long time doesn’t mean he’d be able to wave a “magic wand” and fix problems over night.

“We’ve taken the state for granted here for a long time and the state has taken us for granted for a long time,” he said.

One solution Clodfelter offered was to reintroduce the state to the city. “When I was on city council, one of the things we used to do is we would invite the member of the General Assembly to come spend (time) in Charlotte,” he said, because letting the General Assembly see the city and the community would make the city less foreign to the lawmakers.

Clodfelter’s short time in the mayoral office has been a whirlwind so far, as he stepped into the middle of a political firestorm in the country’s 16th largest city. But he’s hitting his groove now, and is looking toward the future.

“It seems light years away from where I was,” Clodfelter said, mentioning how good he felt to come to Charlotte and how he’s noticed a change within the city. “In the last two to three years, things have started to turn. The community has become more vigorous.”

While problems with Raleigh dominated much of Tuesday’s discussion, Clodfelter also answered questions from Ballantyne residents regarding a more local fight – the perceived battle between uptown and south Charlotte – and other issues such as local zoning petitions.

“I was very presently surprised and impressed by the mayors willingness to reach out and talk to the people in an open way,” said Ballantyne Breakfast Club founder Ray Eschert. “He was very engaging and he didn’t shy away from hard questions.”

Eschert was happy to hear Clodfelter agree to come back and talk with other groups such as the South Mecklenburg Alliance for Responsible Taxpayers, as the club has had problems getting officials such as former Mayor Anthony Foxx down to meetings in the past.

“That’s the kind of mayor I want to see,” Eschert said of Clodfelter, calling the mayor very professional, very polished and a good communicator.

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Laura Edington

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