This is a crucial time for the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. As the economy nationwide slides into a recession, more of this county's residents are in need of the important services the government provides. For county government that includes public health, emergency medical services, environmental protection, libraries, parks, elderly care plus critical support for law enforcement, criminal justice, public schools and Central Piedmont Community College.
In an economic downturn, needs often outstrip available resources. Setting the right priorities and balance in meeting and paying for those needs is critical. Given this environment, the qualities that candidates bring to the job of county commissioner are more important than ever.
Two candidates for at-large Mecklenburg County commissioner seats clearly have what it takes to be effective commissioners, thoughtfully balancing the critical needs of this community while being good stewards of the resources necessary to address those needs. We heartily endorse those candidates, incumbent Jennifer Roberts and political newcomer Dan Murrey, for the board. Here's why.
Roberts, a Democrat, has served two terms on the board of county commissioners, this one as chair – the first chairwoman of the commissioners since 1996. During her tenure, she has been a knowledgeable, effective leader with a keen interest in education and the environment and issues related to growth. She has managed the board well, deftly handling the different personalities, and works to keep the public informed about important matters.
She also has handled difficult county issues forthrightly and with integrity. One example: After some residents were flooded out of their apartments and discovered they didn't have the county-paid insurance promised, Roberts pledged she'd make sure residents were treated fairly. If the county was at fault, “then we absolutely need to come through and treat these people as if they were insured,” she said. And the county has.
Roberts, a UNC Chapel Hill graduate, is an adjunct professor at UNC Charlotte. Her experience as a Foreign Service officer and executive director of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte makes her particularly well suited to lead a county that is home to many foreign companies and a growing international population.
Dan Murrey, a Democrat, is an orthopedic surgeon whose medical expertise will be valuable on a board that is also the county board of health. He holds degrees from Davidson College and Harvard Medical School, in addition to a master's in public policy from Harvard. Among his goals if elected is to strengthen free clinics and reduce teen pregnancies.
Murrey also would bring other assets to the board. He served on the School Building Solutions Committee for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, a panel headed by former Republican Gov. Jim Martin. The diverse group of residents – politically, economically and racially – worked together on the issue and proposed an action plan. Murrey also vigorously worked for the last school bond package.
He says his work on the building solutions panel sparked his interest in pulling the community together to solve common problems. He plans to push for more collaboration between board members and with other public agencies and the community. Such working across party lines and with other agencies will be invaluable as the commission tries to meet community needs in difficult economic times.
A recommendation for the third at-large seat is less clearcut. The remaining candidates have valuable qualities but we endorse Republican Hal Jordan.
Jordan is a data management consultant who has a bachelor's degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland. The Observer editorial board endorsed Jordan in 2006 for the N.C. legislature in his race against former House Speaker Jim Black. He lost by 30 votes to Black, who was convicted of bribery after the race and is serving time in prison.
Jordan is a pragmatic conservative who says he wants to work quietly and constructively to get things done. He promises to take a creative approach to problem-solving and brings expertise in budgeting and prioritizing to the commission, something the board will need in this economic environment.
Jordan says he's conservative but not a “belligerent” conservative. He is a person who believes in compromise, he said.
We're not likely to agree with Jordan on many issues but if he stays true to that pledge, he can be valuable in helping the county meet crucial needs, and ensuring that this community remains a progressive and prosperous one.