When Pat McCrory packed up and headed to the governor’s mansion last month, he left a few things behind in Charlotte.
Forty boxes of his personal papers, photos and official mayoral correspondence wait on the inventory shelves in J. Murrey Atkins Library’s Special Collections at UNC Charlotte for anyone who wants to sift through them.
Since the 1960s, the university’s library has been the official repository for mayoral papers. McCrory’s belongings have plenty of company – Stan Brookshire, John Belk, Ken Harris, H. Edward Knox, Harvey Gantt, Sue Myrick and Richard Vinroot all share the same shelves.
They’re a matter of public record, open to anyone who wants to see how decisions were made or how government works or how a project grew from a seed to a tree – or in Charlotte’s case, a parking lot to a 73,778-seat stadium.
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“Over 40 linear feet of former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory’s official documents, photos and personal papers are now available to the public,” pitches the library’s website, either as a boast or warning.
“These McCrory boxes are especially heavy,” said the librarian who wheeled them from the archives into the reading room.
The current library staff knows little of what’s in the mayor’s papers. The archivists who helped categorize them are no longer at the library.
Some folders in the printer paper-size boxes are as thin as broth, like the one marked “Birthday Letters” to the mayor.
Some are as thick as stew, like the “Proclamations” folders. During his 14-year run as mayor, McCrory issued them for everything from “Avett Brothers Day” to “The Carolina Association of Zoning Officials 25th Anniversary Week.”
Some topics lie dormant then rear their heads again later on. Folders labeled “Arena” multiply six times inside box No. 2, but don’t emerge again until box No. 23, when a mutated and super-size 2-inch-thick “New Arena” file muscles through.
Some topics go on and on. “Transit” folders pick up in box No. 30, travel the scenic route through box No. 31, and end their journey in No. 32.
Some topics are puzzling. Of all the “City Council Retreat” folders, 1996 takes up an unusually large amount of space, with three bulging files.
Some topics are probably politically incorrect, like the three folders labeled, “Nuts, Strange Letters/Inquiries to the Mayor.”
Inside, one person warned the mayor of an emerging mafia made entirely of attorneys from Charlotte.
Another asked him to deny employment to anyone coming from Long Island. The letter-writer lived there and hadn’t had a date in years, he explained. He was hoping the mayor could help his chances with a little tough love. “Long Islanders are hard-nosed people who listen only to economic pressure,” he wrote.
Nearly every folder held at least one opinion or suggestion for McCrory. In one “Arena” folder, a teenager worried that his peers would find mischief if the old arena wasn’t turned into a skate park.
“I feel the more popular skate-borading (sic), bicycling, and roller-blading become, the more trouble kids will get into, unless my suggestion is put into play,” he wrote.
Like the idea, the letter, typed on a typewriter, its typos awash in whiteout, now remains a part of history.