CHARLOTTE – Matthew Ridenhour evoked the words of Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton and George Washington in recapping his service to the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners.
Like Ridenhour, both were military men who became leaders. Ridenhour, a native of Charlotte, served 11 years in the Marines, including two tours in Iraq.
“I have sought to serve with honor, courage and commitment – the core values of the Marine Corps,” said Ridenhour, who represented the south Charlotte area for six years.
County Manager Dena Diorio continued Nov. 20 the tradition of honoring outgoing commissioners with plaques in appreciation of their service. Gone are Ridenhour, Bill James, Jim Puckett and Dumont Clarke.
While Clarke chose not to run for re-election, James, Puckett and Ridenhour lost their seats to Democratic challengers. Democrats now hold a 9-0 majority on the board.
Since his defeat, James has not attended a commission meeting. Still, some commissioners spoke favorably about his contributions to the county budget.
“There has never been anyone who’s been a better servant to the taxpayers and to those who need to watch the pennies of the county than Bill James,” Puckett said.
Puckett attributed some of the criticism James receives to his life as a devout Christian while holding public office.
“Bill has been labeled as a racist for 22 years,” Puckett said. “I’ve known Bill very well for a long, long time. There is not a racist bone in his body. He is brutally honest about what he believes. He speaks truth to reality. And sometimes there are those who would rather deal with the messenger than the message.”
Ridenhour said some of the accomplishments he was most proud of over his six years was hiring the county manager, fixing the 2011 revaluation, decentralizing county services, improving CMS funding and raising teacher pay, expanding the greenway network, approving renovations to American Legion Stadium and improving code enforcement and permitting processes.
Commissioner Trevor Miller credited Ridenhour for applying thoughtfulness, dedication and care to everything he did on the county commission. He never doubted or questioned his motivations even when they disagreed.
“My hope for Mecklenburg County, the community, our community, is that we strive daily, each of us, to understand and respect each other better,” Ridenhour said. “The political divisions and bitterness spreading through our nation are rotting us from the core.”
He advised not to judge others by extremists on either side but to recognize that most people want the same things – good schools, safe communities, job opportunities and a bright future for our children.