Newcomer Faulkner wants to bring ‘cradle-to-opportunity pipeline’ to county youth

The Rev. Damiko Faulkner sees his run for at-large Mecklenburg County commissioner as a calling.

He’s not interested in horse-race politics or outmaneuvering the competition. Ask him why he’s running and he’ll say he wants to make the county better for everyone, regardless of ZIP codes and economic status.

The 37-year-old Charlotte native also says he’s not naive: He knows the obstacles he’ll face as a newcomer campaigning in a race filled with incumbents. But Faulkner, a pastor and fashion consultant, said he’s not worried about the political heft on the ballot.

“I’m focused on running the race, running strong and finishing,” he said. “I believe that we can create a community that presents...people with options.”

Doing more

Six years ago, Faulkner became pastor of Ben Salem Presbyterian Church in east Charlotte, where he frequently helps parishioners with unemployment and family issues. He wants to do more.

“As a pastor, I could only go so far,” he said. “More recently, I realized it’s time for us to have a seat at the table.”

An encounter from a few years ago drives his passion to take a seat on the board of county commissioners.

He attended one of the first few Moral Monday protests in Raleigh. There, he met a 96-year-old woman. She was marching, and had marched decades earlier for blacks to earn the right to vote, he said.

“She was still fighting at 96, and I don’t think she should have to fight,” Faulkner said. “She should have been off the front lines a long time ago.”

‘Cradle-to-opportunity pipeline’

Faulkner has structured his platform around a series of social issues, including education, unemployment and economic equality.

To address all three, he wants to introduce a “cradle-to-opportunity pipeline,” a means of teaching the county’s youth and adults vocational, technological and conflict-resolution skills that will help them land jobs.

Many organizations in the community offer those services, he said, but are “under-utilized.” If elected, Faulkner said he would urge the county to consider funding more or partnering with those groups.

“We need to sow and invest in the community,” he said.

Compensating teachers

Faulkner said he sympathizes with teachers who, while trying to teach children, must also deal with behavioral issues.

He favors the county increasing the local supplement to teacher pay.

“Education isn’t something we can compromise,” he said. “You want to invest in those taking care of your kids. We have to be open to how some of the other counties are making it work, making it happen.”

Jonathan McFadden: 704-358-6045, @JmcfaddenObsGov

Damiko Faulkner

Hometown: Charlotte

Education: Bachelor’s in mass communication from Winston-Salem State University; master’s in professional communication from East Tennessee State University; master’s in divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Family: Niche (pronounced Knee-Shay) Faulkner, wife; Channing Faulkner, 1-year-old son

Job: Pastor of Ben Salem Presbyterian Church; co-owner of Frederick LaMont fashion consultancy

Politics: No previous experience

Worth knowing: He organizes weekend “pop-up runs” urging supporters to join him on runs throughout the county.