Mecklenburg commissioners, District 1: Puckett takes back his old seat

Former Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett will return to the board he left in 2006, beating Democrat Leonard Richardson Tuesday to represent District 1.

With 17 of 21 precincts reporting, Puckett held a comfortable lead with 54.78 percent of the vote to Richardson’s 45.22 percent. In a district that traditionally votes Republican, Puckett was expected to win with ease, but Richardson, a public school teacher, clung closely in the early stages. Yet as the night wore on, Puckett’s lead grew.

He will take the seat held by four-term Republican Commissioner Karen Bentley, who decided not to run for reelection.

The 57-year-old Puckett of Huntersville, who owns an industrial paint contractor company, represented the district for three terms starting in 2000. Before that, he served a term on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board. In 2006, he ran for an at-large commission seat and lost. Last year, he unsuccessfully ran for Huntersville mayor.

Yet before Bentley announced she wouldn’t seek another term after four terms, she gave Puckett advanced notice that he could have his old seat back. He said he ran because he felt the board needed a business owner among its ranks.

Richardson, 33, is also from Huntersville and ran unsuccessfully for the county commission in 2012 and last year for a seat on Charlotte City Council.

He teaches fifth grade at Nations Ford Elementary, but grew up in Salisbury, spending six years as a boy in foster care. When his single mother was able to care for him, she relied on help from social services. He said he felt his background would bring a different, more empathetic perspective to the board, which oversees the county’s social services and health departments.