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Dan Clodfelter has what Charlotte needs

Last April 30, the Observer editorial board had some fun by launching its inaugural Mayoral Power Rankings. With Anthony Foxx off to Washington, we listed the top 10 candidates most likely to be Charlotte’s next mayor.

At the top of the list?

Democrat Dan Clodfelter.

It was a recognition that Clodfelter would make a formidable candidate. With his intelligence, appeal to independents and the respect he had earned through his work on the City Council and in the legislature, Clodfelter would have had an excellent shot.

The eight-term state senator passed on the race, clearing the way for Patrick Cannon to ultimately win the job.

Now that Cannon has resigned, accused of public corruption, Charlotte and Clodfelter have another chance.

Dozens of questions remain unanswered following Cannon’s arrest. His alleged claims about influence-peddling in Charlotte city government have rocked the public’s faith and raised questions about who else, if anyone, might have been involved in illegal acts.

In such an environment, it is crucial that someone far removed from local government in recent years lead the city, restoring its reputation both locally and nationally. Of the individuals thought to be in the mix, Clodfelter is uniquely well-suited to fill that role.

A graduate of Davidson, Oxford and Yale Law School, Clodfelter served three terms on the City Council in the late 1980s and early ’90s. He was among the most influential senators when Democrats controlled that chamber and even today remains respected in the capital – a valuable trait for a Charlotte leader these days. He has the leadership ability to help Charlotte navigate this unprecedented rebuilding job. And importantly: His integrity has never been questioned.

Clodfelter would be the best pick even if he might then run for the job in November 2015. City Council members have indicated they want the person they appoint not to run for reelection. To be sure, their selection would have a distinct leg up on the competition come next year.

But that stipulation could prevent the strongest leaders from stepping up. And it ensures that the city has a lame duck in office at the very moment it most needs a leader articulating a vision and persuading council members and the public to support it.

The ideal scenario would be for voters not to have to go nearly two years with a mayor they did not elect. The City Council should ask the legislature’s permission to hold an election this year so that voters, not just 11 council members, have a say.

Absent that, it’s even more important the council get it right. Council members seem to be weighing many political considerations. They should focus utmost, however, on picking the best person for the job.

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