CHARLOTTE – There are few better versed on the growth trends of Mecklenburg and Union counties than Richard Black, but he may be overlooked for a vacancy on the Mecklenburg County Planning Commission in favor of a bakery owner.
Black, 71, of Charlotte, has served as planning director for Union County for more than 17 years. He also spent time serving as interim county manager from January 2007 to May 2008.
Prior to joining Union County in 2001, he had worked in various roles with the Mecklenburg County Planning Commission from 1981 to 2000.
Black learned about the planning board vacancy online and applied, volunteering to spend up to 24 hours a month for the role. But at least one Mecklenburg County commissioner is weary of letting Black serve.
“I think it would be quite awkward for Mecklenburg County to have the actual planning director of another county serving as a member of the planning commission,” Commissioner Dumont Clarke said. “It’s not a conflict of interest. To me, it’s just not appropriate.”
Instead, Clarke nominated Manuel Betancur for the vacancy. Betancur, who lives in Clarke’s district, owns Las Delicias Bakery on Central Avenue. His civic experience includes serving as president of the Hispanic American Democrats of Mecklenburg County and North Carolina, as well as membership with the Latin American Chamber of Commerce.
“It would also add to the diversity of our planning commission to have someone who is Hispanic to serve,” Clarke told colleagues. “That is one reason I strongly support Manuel.”
Commissioner Vilma Leake noted how six of the 14 members of the planning commission live in Clarke’s district.
Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, who represents a large portion of south Charlotte, initially nominated Black for the vacancy on the commission, citing his qualifications.
“I think that if we’re looking at planning, growth and development – as we should for any advisory board – we should find folks qualified for that space,” Ridenhour said, reading off some of Black’s resume.
However, Ridenhour said Clarke had a point about Black’s involvement with a neighboring county. So he nominated Rajahm Sellers, a finance associate who lives in his district. Sellers has experience with GIS work in Charlotte and New York City, as well as a master’s degree in urban planning.
“He’s got a pretty good resume for this, as well,” Ridenhour said.
Commissioner Bill James, who also represents southern Mecklenburg, nominated Melissa Lefko, a self-employed consultant in his district with experience in the nonprofit sector. James mentioned that she is involved with schools.
Commissioners will fill the vacancy at an upcoming meeting.