Mecklenburg County Commissioner Valerie Woodard complained of dizziness Thursday before she was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, her son said Saturday.
That's all Willus Woodard knew about what was ailing his mother before she died Friday. For now, he said, that's all he needs to know.
“It just was sudden, and if there's anything else, I'm not privy to it,” Willus Woodard, 38, said. “We have to deal with what we have to deal with. At this point, it doesn't matter what the cause is.”
Family members and friends were gathering at the Woodard home in northeast Charlotte, and the family was still making funeral arrangements, Willus Woodard said.
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Doctors at Presbyterian, he said, were still trying to determine what killed Valerie Woodard, 56, a three-term Democratic commissioner known for her strong stand on social issues.
“They're still running some tests,” he said. “She had kind of been feeling sick. But we didn't think it was anything major.”
Willus Woodard said he received a call from the hospital at about 6 p.m. Friday, telling him to come. When he arrived, he said, he saw his father, Bill, in a hospital room. His father told him what had happened. He was “shocked,” he said. “Such a loss.”
Woodard became the first African American woman on the county board when she won election in 2002. She was running unopposed for re-election in District 3, a heavily Democratic and minority area that includes central, east and north Charlotte neighborhoods.
She was known for her responsiveness to her constituents, particularly on issues involving minorities. Two years ago, when she ran for her third term, she described how she approached her service on the board: “People call me, and I call them back. They ask me to do stuff, and I do it.”
Woodard led the push for a county HIV/AIDS advisory council and consistently questioned county staff on whether the county was hiring minority contractors.
“She wanted to make sure our business was reflective of the community,” commission Chair Jennifer Roberts said Saturday.
More than once, Woodard broke from the rest of the board on controversial votes.
She was the only board member who voted against the appointment in February of Chipp Bailey as sheriff after the Nick Mackey controversy. Mackey, a Charlotte lawyer, was elected by county Democrats to fill the sheriff's vacancy, but a state panel determined in February that the election was improper.
Woodard also cast the only vote against a provision banning sex offenders from county parks.
“She was her own person,” Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican, said Saturday. “We had different political philosophies and opinions, but I always admired her independence and her commitment to public service.”