With Michael Barnes and David Howard running for mayor, voters will elect at least two new at-large members to the City Council this fall. That opportunity attracted 12 Democrats to the field. Voters will nominate four of them next week to run against three Republicans in November.
The competence in this lineup is unusually deep, with eight or more equipped to be effective City Council members. Several strong candidates will fall short. The group is especially notable because it includes promising candidates who have never run for office. New blood committed to Charlotte’s betterment is always welcome.
In a strong field, we recommend Julie Eiselt, Billy Maddalon, Claire Fallon and Vi Lyles. (The Republicans do not have a primary; all three advance to the general election.)
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A new addition
Julie Eiselt is the kind of accomplished person about whom people say, “Why doesn’t someone like that run for office?”
She’s doing so for the first time. She brings experience from an impressive career in international finance, a record of volunteering for underprivileged families and the homeless, and demonstrated leadership on vital community issues. Threatened at gunpoint in the Dowd YMCA parking lot, Eiselt in 2008 created Neighbors For a Safer Charlotte, an advocacy group that worked for better criminal justice.
She speaks with eloquence and vision about the need for effective policing, affordable housing, more transportation options and the city helping the schools. We expect she’d be a valuable contributor to the council.
Billy Maddalon served an interim stint on the council in 2013 when Patsy Kinsey filled in as mayor for the departed Patrick Cannon. He is a businessman who operates the Morehead Inn and the VanLandingham Estate.
Maddalon is openly gay and is an advocate for gay equality. But he should not be pigeon-holed as a one-issue candidate. Raised partly at Alexander Children’s Home during a challenging childhood before becoming a successful student and businessman, Maddalon understands issues of poverty and economic mobility. He has served in various civic roles and brings an inclusive, non-confrontational yet powerful leadership style.
Claire Fallon seeks a third term on the council. She brings value with her direct, independent approach. She says what she thinks and irritates some with her bluntness. But every governmental body can use a pinch of that.
“I’ll give you an honest answer. If it gets me in trouble, so be it,” Fallon says. “I’m transparent and available and I fight for the people.” We don’t always agree with Fallon but we do appreciate that she brings that element to the council.
Vi Lyles is finishing her first term on the council after nearly 30 years as a city staffer, including as the budget director and assistant city manager. She is regarded as a good listener and bridge-builder as well as a strategic thinker. Her deep understanding of this community and how government works are valuable. She relegated herself to the background in her first term; we hope in a second term she will assert her opinions and her leadership more powerfully.
Bruce Clark leads the rest of the pack. He is energetic, adaptive and intellectually nimble, and an asset to Charlotte’s public life going forward. Former council member James “Smuggie” Mitchell, defense lawyer Mo Idlibby and financial adviser Sean Gautam are also credible candidates.