Lake Norman & Mooresville

Town facing yet another change at the top

Rick Kline

Rick Kline had already been Davidson’s attorney for nearly 15 years when Leamon Brice was hired to become the town’s chief executive in 1990. He likely will outlast Brice in his role with the town.

But not by much.

With Brice planning to retire at the end of the year, the town announced Wednesday that Kline, 68, too, plans to step down. He has been the town’s attorney since 1976.

“The mayor and Board of Commissioners have asked Rick to continue to serve as their legal counsel until they can find a suitable successor,” the town said in a news release announcing Kline’s decision. “The search process could take several months, and the mayor and commissioners want to include the new town manager, a position that has not yet been filled, in the process.”

It is unclear when commissioners will hire a replacement for Brice, who announced in April that he would be retiring effective Dec. 31.

Mayor John Woods and his town board colleagues said at the time they would use the long lead time to have a replacement on the job by October, which would allow the new manager some transition time with Brice before the end of the year. The October timetable now seems unlikely.

“This is a very significant decision for the town, and all candidates remain under consideration as the commissioners work to choose the best possible fit for the town,” Woods said last week. “Our plan remains to afford some time to allow for overlap before Leamon formally retires at year-end.”

Woods praised Kline on Wednesday for his work with Mecklenburg County’s northernmost municipality, which has stubbornly resisted threats to its village-like vibe in the face of suburban sprawl from Charlotte. Kline could not be reached for comment.

That approach has put Davidson – and Kline – at odds with developers unhappy with town-imposed limits over what they could and couldn’t do with their property.

Most recently, in July, the town’s settlement of a lawsuit by Davidson-based builder Artisan Knox LLC became the framework for changes in Davidson’s affordable housing rules. The changes allow developers to avoid including price-controlled homes in new subdivisions by making payments directly to the town.

Kline told commissioners that such payments gave the town more flexibility in location and types of affordable housing, while also reducing the threat of future legal challenges.

“Rick has been integral to the development of Davidson for the past nearly 40 years,” Woods said. “His great legal mind has guided us to making courageous decisions that have helped create the small-town community and sense of place that we all love.”

The town’s announcement said Kline plans to maintain his private practice in Davidson.

John Deem is a freelance writer: