Peter St. Onge

Want to be the mayor? Say so

Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter tepidly announced this week that he wants another term.
Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter tepidly announced this week that he wants another term. CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

Who really wants to be mayor of Charlotte?

It’s hard to tell from the frontrunners who’ve raised their hands for the job.

Mayor pro tem Michael Barnes said back in January that he’s a candidate, but he did so in a six-sentence message to his Facebook friends.

That same week, City Council member David Howard changed his Facebook profile picture to a very campaigny logo that featured the letter “H” and a star. Then he told a couple reporters that he was in the race. But that’s it. He told me this week that he might have a press conference on it soon.

Then there’s current Mayor Dan Clodfelter, who’s been low-keying the office since he took over in 2014 after then-mayor Patrick Cannon’s arrest. Clodfelter finally announced this week that he wanted another term. Actually, a spokesperson announced it for him. In an e-mail.

Whatever happened to the Big Announcement, the noisy event where the candidate asks for our hand? We miss the pomp, the cameras flashing, the forced and frequent applause, the canned platitudes ...

OK, maybe we don’t miss it.

But there’s something to be said for standing up and explaining why you want to lead, why you deserve to, and what vision you have. There’s something to be said for “I really want this.”

At least one mayoral candidate got that right – Jennifer Roberts, who announced she was running back in 2003 (actually, last year.) Roberts did the deed in Freedom Park in May, and she did it the old-school way, with waving and cheering and optimism.

It was a celebration, not a job interview.

But Roberts, eager as she may be, is considered a long shot by political insiders and observers. And Republicans haven’t pushed forth a formal lamb for slaugh... candidate yet. (Although Scott Stone says he’ll announce soon.) Which leaves us, for now, with three understated frontrunners and seven months of snoozing ahead.

Maybe it’s just the personality of the candidates. Howard is a behind-the-scenes guy, the member of the City Council who gets things done before and after the cameras are on. Barnes is the independent thinker, a contrarian without bluster. Clodfelter, as we’ve learned in the past year, is more comfortable immersed in policy than leading everyone through it.

Maybe going understated is a calculated thing. After the smooth but felonious croonings of Patrick Cannon, the candidates may have decided that Charlotte is ready for some dull efficiency in their next leader.

But we don’t mind being wooed a bit, too.

This is a vibrant city with big possibilities and big challenges. It deserves a leader with a vision and a voice. Charisma isn’t something to be suspicious of in a mayor. It’s what you need to do the job well.

Remember, Charlotte already has a full-time administrator. That’s City Manager Ron Carlee.

We also need a mayor, and it needs to be more than someone who wants the job. It needs to be someone who wants to lead.

Peter: pstonge@charlotteobserver.com

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