To say Michael O’Hara is a space enthusiast is an understatement. He’s got a roomful of homemade rockets, a blog dedicated to space travel and even a website called “SpaceMike.” He calls his home office “Mission Control.”
“I like to put it his way,” he says on his site, “banker by trade, but space by passion.”
O’Hara, a Republican, could need a sort of moonshot to thrust him to victory over Democratic incumbent Greg Phipps in Charlotte City Council District 4.
Less than 17 percent of voters in the northeast district are Republicans. More than half are registered Democrats and nearly half are, like Phipps, African-American.
Phipps, 62, is running for a second term. He also served in 2005 after he was appointed to fill a vacancy. Then-Mayor Pat McCrory, a Republican, cast the tie-breaking vote that put Phipps in office.
A retired federal bank regulator, Phipps chairs the council’s Budget Committee. He wants to focus on the district’s exploding growth as well as public safety and improving relations with the General Assembly.
“I think that the relationships are improving right now, and I want to improve that in a second term,” he says.
Phipps supported spending $7 million on body cameras for police. He also wants to pursue a more regional approach to issues such as transportation funding.
O’Hara, 56, doesn’t want to be a “keeper of the status quo.”
A manager with Wells Fargo, he says city officials are not making a big enough effort to cut spending and use tax money efficiently.
“We need to have somebody dotting the ‘i’s’ and crossing the ‘t’s’,” he says. “And if I get elected to City Council, I will be that person.”
O’Hara wants a “district scorecard” that would track taxes and fees paid by district residents as well as the value of services they get in return.
“I reach out to everybody,” he says. “I’m a creative, innovative guy who brings new ideas to the table.”
Family: Wife, Lemair; three grown children.
Education: Bachelor’s, Hampton University, 1975; Southwestern Graduate School of Banking at Southern Methodist University.
Occupation: Retired federal bank examiner.
Community involvement: Former neighborhood leader, Back Creek Forest; University City Partners board; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning commissioner, 2009-2013; chaired Keep Charlotte Beautiful Committee, 2006-2009.
Politics: City Council, 2013-present; served after appointed to vacancy in 2005.
Family: Wife, Patti; four grown children.
Education: Attended Johns Hopkins University and graduated from the American Military University with a degree in (Aero) Space Studies.
Occupation: Manager, Wells Fargo.
Community involvement: Former PTO member; active in Brynmoor neighborhood.
Politics: Ran for mayor of Manchester, Md., in 1985.
On the ballot
The general election is Nov. 3. Find more details, including early voting sites, at charlotteobserver.com/election.
Here are key races:
Charlotte mayor: Democrat Jennifer Roberts and Republican Edwin Peacock square off.
Charlotte City Council: Four Democrats – Julie Eiselt, Claire Fallon, Vi Lyles and James Mitchell – face Republicans Pablo Carvajal, John Powell and David Rice for four at-large council seats. There also are races in Districts 2, 3, 4 and 7.
School board: Mecklenburg County voters also will elect three at-large members.
Commissioners’ terms: Voters will decide in a referendum whether to extend the terms of county commissioners from two to four years.
Mecklenburg County towns, other counties: Voters across the region will decide on a variety of races, including mayors, town boards, and school boards.
Early voting: Cast your ballot early through Saturday. Mecklenburg County has 17 sites. CPCC, 1325 E. Seventh St., is open 8 a.m.-7 p.m. through Friday. The other sites are open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. All 17 sites are open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.