Heath Morrison, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent, met with the Observer editorial board the other day. Cartoonist Kevin Siers was tied up and couldn't attend. Morrison didn't mind: He hasn't treated me too well so far! Morrison said with a smile.
Other public figures, from Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers to Gov.-elect Pat McCrory to President Barack Obama, could have told Morrison, new to town as of last summer, what to expect from Siers: sharp but fair pokes, with a large helping of humor. Siers has been handing those out in Charlotte about five times a week for the past 25 years.
Here's what you need to know about Siers (pronounced CY-ers): He's not an artist in his own world, detached from the news. Rather, he is a politics and public policy fanatic, devouring news articles and columns from across the state and country every day. By the time most of the editorial board has arrived each morning, Siers has studied up on all the coverage of the day, from the Huffington Post to the New York Times to the National Review. That base of knowledge, combined with his own passions, form the concoction that fuels his insightful work.
Siers' cartoons cover a broad spectrum: Some days he makes a serious point about wrongheaded public policy; sometimes he calls out the foibles of elected officials; some days he reflects the mourning of a community over the death of a hero or the murder of first graders.
Some days, Siers just makes a joke. That's what he did when he drew Panthers quarterback Cam Newton striking his Superman pose, only to reveal a Hello Kitty shirt under his uniform. Neither Siers nor I anticipated the national buzz that cartoon would create.
Siers grew up in Minnesota and was drawing pictures from an early age. It was in college that he realized he might be able to make a living out of it. Heck, it would sure beat toiling in Minnesota's iron ore mines, where he worked from time to time in his college years.
We're glad Siers put down his shovel for a pen. We hope you are too.