Elections

With taxes on the table, here’s who will lead Mecklenburg’s board through next year

Siri interrupts Commissioner Fuller during remarks following swearing-in ceremony

Siri interrupts Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller on Monday, December 3, 2018, during his comments after being sworn in as a commissioner for the 2018-2020 term. The interruption brought laughter throughout the chamber.
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Siri interrupts Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller on Monday, December 3, 2018, during his comments after being sworn in as a commissioner for the 2018-2020 term. The interruption brought laughter throughout the chamber.

George Dunlap will chair the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners, a major shift on a board that’s poised to oversee the results of the county’s first property tax revaluation in eight years.

Elaine Powell, one of four newcomers, was elected as co-chair. All nine seats on the board are held by Democrats. Democrats swept the election last month, unseating all three Republican incumbents.

“A lot of work is ahead, but we can and will accomplish more if we work together,” Dunlap said.

Eight members of the board voted for Dunlap. Only one board member — at-large Commissioner Pat Cotham — voted against him.

The chair can set agendas and committee assignments, and runs the board’s meetings. The commissioners will have a full plate from the start: Mecklenburg County’s first property tax revaluation is underway, and new tax values will go out to owners of the county’s 365,000 parcels next month. The nine-member board sets the biggest share of local property taxes, decides on the county’s $1.7 billion budget, provides a major piece of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools funding and oversees more than 5,500 employees in departments ranging from social services to parks.

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It’s the first time since 1964 that one party has held all Mecklenburg County commissioners’ seats. It’s also the first time that a district commissioner, who represents one portion of the county, will chair the board. The chair has been held by one of the three at-large members, with the top vote-getter traditionally getting the nod.

That tradition hasn’t held true in recent years, though.

Cotham, who has sometimes had strained relationships with other Democrats on the board, was the top vote-getter in 2012 and won the chair. But in 2013, commissioners picked Trevor Fuller, another at-large member, to chair the board. He held that post until 2016, when Cotham, again the top vote-getter, nominated Democrat Ella Scarborough, another at-large commissioner, for the chair. Scarborough won with the support of Cotham and the three Republican members. Republican Jim Puckett was named vice chair in the contentious vote.

This year, Scarborough lacked support from her fellow commissioners to win the chair again. As in years past, Cotham got the most votes, winning just over 244,000 votes, or almost 29 percent. Fuller and Scarborough came in second and third, with just under 28 percent each.

The new county commissioners had said building a team and fostering a better atmosphere on the board would be important to them as they picked their new leader.

The board elected new leadership, tempered by experience, Fuller said.

Cotham said the four new commissioners will bring positive attitudes and new ideas. She also said she will help Dunlap in his role as chairman.

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Cope: 704-358-5926; @cassielcope.
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