CHARLOTTE – Though the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners is comprised entirely of his party affiliation, Democrat Ray McKinnon believes he can bring a unique perspective to the board.
McKinnon, who is running for an at-large seat on the commission, is a pastor at South Tryon Community United Methodist Church and a commissioner on the Charlotte Housing Authority. He believes these experiences separate him as a candidate and would give him an advantage on the board.
“I believe that the board needs to continue to have perspectives of people who will be most impacted by our policies,” McKinnon said. “I know the impact policymakers make on the day-to-day lives of the most vulnerable folks in our community. I want to bring my experience as a policymaker, but also the perspective of a person working every day with the most vulnerable and the most often forgotten.”
McKinnon is also part of the North Carolina Democratic Party’s State Executive Council and Democratic National Committee, as well as a board member for the Leading on Opportunity Council.
McKinnon serves on the Leading on Opportunity Council with Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio. McKinnon said this is just one of the connections he has around the county. He has developed professional relationships with elected officials throughout the county, both on the commission and in towns like Matthews, Pineville and Huntersville.
He believes having connections would put him at a strong starting point on the board, allowing him to work with officials who already know him.
Because he has connections with council members in other towns, McKinnon said he understands the challenges they face.
“The challenges are unique in how they manifest, but all of us living in Mecklenburg County share similar challenges around affordable housing, upward mobility, connectivity and the rapid growth we are experiencing,” McKinnon said.
McKinnon said he wants to ensure the county commission’s decisions benefit “the many, not just the few.” This includes small towns, he said. He wants to keep up with the county’s growing population and infrastructure while preserving the elements that make Mecklenburg unique.
He also wants to approach transportation from a regional standpoint, looking at how greenways can be connected and how people can travel throughout the county without their cars.
Other issues he is passionate about are public education and mental health. McKinnon said he is the spouse of a public school educator and the father of students who went to public schools, so he feels a unique connection to the school system. Additionally, because he works in an area that benefits from county commissioners’ policies, he wants to advocate for more mental health services around the county.
McKinnon plans to tackle these countywide challenges by asking tough questions. He does not want to approach issues in an accusatory manner, but he wants to make sure the board operates in the best way possible.
While there will be a learning curve if elected, he believes his fresh perspective will allow him to tackle challenges.
“What I won’t bring is all of the answers, but I will bring a cooperative perspective and one that challenges to ask the questions of the staff and of our team to ask, ‘does this center many of our folks instead of just a few?’ and, ‘does this get us there in a way that is sustainable and a way that we can all be proud of?’” McKinnon said.
He believes the current board has done a good job at listening to citizens’ concerns, but he thinks they are not as nimble and responsive as citizens would like. He hopes to change this if he can.
Though the county has faced challenges, he thinks it has many strengths.
“The people of Mecklenburg County are beautiful people who are committed to being more hopeful, loving and inclusive people,” he said.
McKinnon said he is not running for selfish motives but rather to serve the community.
“I’m not doing this for any type of clout or notoriety,” he said. “I am one to serve because I believe that Mecklenburg County should be a county where folks are seen, known and loved. I want them to see themselves in their representatives.”