South Charlotte residents will soon choose a new leader to represent them on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners.
Republican Matthew Ridenhour is facing off against Democrat Paula Harvey for the District 5 seat on the board of county commissioners. The winner will succeed the late Neil Cooksey, a Republican who announced last year he would not seek re-election.
Both candidates say the county should be careful and efficient in how it spends taxpayer dollars, and say they’re still hearing from residents concerned about how the county handled last year’s property revaluation.
The winner of the Nov. 6 election will represent a district that spans across south Charlotte, and includes the Myers Park, Olde Providence and SouthPark communities. Republicans make up just over 38 percent of the district’s registered voters, while Democrats comprise nearly 32 percent of the area’s voter base.
The district has traditionally leaned Republican. But Harvey said she’s heard from people who say she’s impressed them with her background, and not her party. She also pointed to the large number of unaffiliated voters in the district.
Harvey, who owns a consulting company and teaches at UNC Charlotte, said she thinks her experience in finances will be helpful when poring over the county budget.
“We need to spend the money wisely,” Harvey said. “No one wants to see waste, especially since it’s the public’s money.”
Ridenhour, a financial analyst, also said the county should be wise in how it spends money. He says he’d like Mecklenburg to consider using zero-based budgeting, in which a budget starts at zero dollars and all line items must be justified.
“I believe zero-based budgeting is the answer to make sure we’re spending those dollars efficiently,” he said, “and if not, that we can divert those dollars to programs that are efficient.”
On the campaign trail, Ridenhour says he’s heard from voters who are concerned about bringing more jobs to the county and also from people still upset about the 2011 revaluation. He said he’s glad the county is doing an audit of the reappraisal process, and says he thinks commissioners should consider bringing in an outside firm to handle future revals.
Harvey says she’s also heard from people concerned about the revaluation, and who say they’re glad that someone is looking at how to improve the process for the future.
Harvey is making her first run for political office, but she is in the middle of a three-year term as council director for the state’s Society for Human Resource Management. She said her work as a business professor and researcher makes her someone who likes to be well-informed before making decisions.
Ridenhour, who previously ran for the Charlotte City Council, is a former Marine and currently serves in the Marine Reserves.
He says with his military background, he naturally takes on a leadership role. But he says he also likes to solve problems and be a mediator and thinks that could be good experience on the board.
The winner of the election will be sworn in in early December.