11 vie to follow Woodard on county board

The 11 people who want to succeed Valerie Woodard as county commissioner have much more in common than they do differences.

Many have served in the same political and community groups. Most tout strong ties to the woman they'd ultimately replace as commissioner.

But Monday, members of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party will decide who should best serve the residents of District 2 for the next two years.

Nearly 60 party members will vote in a special election set for 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth Street. Woodard died this month, and her name will still appear on the general election ballot.

More candidates could join the race before the election starts.

The Mecklenburg County Democratic Party will hold a special party election Monday to name a successor to late County Commissioner Valerie Woodard. Voting will be limited to select precinct officials, elected officials and other party leaders who live in district 3.

The meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday in Room 267 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St. in uptown. Registration starts an hour earlier. The public is invited to attend.

Martina Ackridge

The intense interest in the presidential election first led Ackridge to consider getting involved in politics. Her curiosity grew after August floods damaged many homes in her Shannon Park neighborhood.

Ackridge organized a neighborhood meeting and urged local officials to help the residents. Their homes now are among those the county could buy to remove the properties from future flood damage.

Ackridge said it's important to talk closely to residents to find out their needs. She said she wouldn't be afraid to cross party lines if it meant doing what is best for the community.

Dwayne Collins

Collins served as Valerie Woodard's campaign manager, and was someone she frequently sought for advice.

He said he'd be honored to succeed his political mentor. He has the support of Woodard's husband.

“If the Democratic party is looking for someone to replace Valerie, I don't see it being anyone else other than Dwayne,” William Woodard said.

Collins, 41, is chair of the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and a past president of the local NAACP.

Collins said he'd continue Woodard's work on the HIV/AIDS advisory council and finishing Romare Bearden and Eastway parks.

John Crawford

Crawford has spent his life fighting for better education and more affordable housing.

He founded the Charlotte Housing Authority Scholarship Fund in 1983 after a college student who had grown up in the projects came to him for help.

The fund has awarded scholarships to about 450 students who have gone on to work in fields such as medicine, law and business.

As commissioner, he'd work for improvements in education, affordable housing and crime.

Svend Deal

Deal grew up in Charlotte and attended West Charlotte High School in the 1980s.

At the time, he said, the civil rights movement helped make the school racially mixed. But now local schools are once again segregated, an issue that spurred his bid for office.

An attorney, Deal, 40, said progressive communities have created affordable housing and zoning rules to produce racially and economically diverse neighborhoods.

Deal is a fundraiser against ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and for national food banks. He also sits on the N.C. Outward Bound School Advisory Board.

In 1990, he was convicted of driving while impaired, an Observer records check of the 11 candidates found. He was given a year of probation and required to get alcohol abuse assessment.

Deal said the incident happened when he was in his 20s and that he was upfront with the Bar Association about the conviction when he was trying to become a lawyer. “It's not something I'm proud of, but it's something I put behind me,” he said.

George Dunlap

After 13 years on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, Dunlap wants to move on to the county board of commissioners.

Dunlap, a retired police officer, represents many of the same neighborhoods that Woodard did as commissioner. They attended the same church – St. Paul Baptist. To some, it seemed only natural that he replace Woodard.

Dunlap, 52, said he welcomes dealing with the broader spectrum of public policy decisions that come before commissioners. On the school board, he has advocated for low-income children and families, arguing that they are entitled to the same quality schools suburban children enjoy.

Geneal Gregory

A longtime party activist, Gregory has helped many local leaders seek public office. As an NAACP leader, she oversaw, among other efforts, a program to protect voters' rights.

Gregory, a retired social services worker, said she has always tried to work to better the community. She is a member of the United House of Prayer, and also previously held a number of positions within the local Black Political Caucus. She's earned the state Order of Long Leaf Pine Award and induction into the Women's History Hall of Fame.

Her top priorities include social services, park and recreation, and public safety.

Deundra Maurice Hemphill

Hemphill, 28, is seeking office for the first time.

He said he wants to follow Woodard's legacy and focus on issues that she held close. If elected, Hemphill said, he would push for more money for health issues affecting African Americans, such as HIV/AIDS and hypertension. He said the county needs to ensure that the Mecklenburg County Health Department has adequate money and programs to address health issues.

Hemphill said he has lived in District 3 all his life, and is a training manager for AAA Carolinas.

Scott Jernigan

As a juvenile court counselor, Jernigan said he sees every day the struggles that many in the community face. And he knows that the tough economy will force leaders to make tough decisions about how best to serve residents.

Jernigan said he'd push for sending more money to local schools, including programs to reduce the dropout rate. He also supports strengthening public transportation in the community, including a planned extension of the light rail line and street car services.

A resident of the Optimist Park neighborhood, Jernigan also is a Boy Scouts volunteer and works with the Charlotte Jaycees.

Rodney Moore

Moore said he has always believed in community service, and is an advocate on mental health issues and for seniors and the homeless.

He first thought of running for commissioner three years ago while at the Institute of Political Leadership, where participants analyzed a race they'd someday like to pursue.

Moore is vice chairman of the Charlotte Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. He also started a corporation to provide services for recently paroled inmates.

As commissioner, he'd like to seek ways to ensure all students have access to resources, and to reduce homelessness.

Kojo Nantambu

Nantambu could not be reached for comment. Observer archives show he has worked as a parent advocate for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Joyce Waddell

Waddell said she isn't one to sit on the sidelines. Over the past three decades, she has served a number of roles in community organizations.

She's a precinct chair and longtime volunteer for the Democratic Party. She also leads the Housing Appeals Board, where she helps low-income residents.

Beyond that, she has led within the Black Political Caucus, the Black Women's Caucus neighborhood associations, and other groups.

Waddell, 64, is a former educator and owns a real estate company. Her top priorities include education, transportation and crime.

Written by April Bethea, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Clay Barbour, Eric Frazier and Fred Clasen-Kelly.