Stallings, Waxhaw mayors compete for vice chair position
For the third straight year, a Union County representative will serve as vice chair for the region’s transportation board. This time however, there’s competition for the role.
Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton served as vice chair for the past two years, but this time, she faces a challenger in Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner. The Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold its first meeting of the year Wednesday, Jan. 18 and will vote on both a chairman and vice chair. Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers is expected to be re-elected for a second term as chairman. The board helps control where road construction funding is directed for Mecklenburg and Union counties.
“I was approached by several MUMPO members the last time who encouraged me to take the seat,” Gardner said. “My ability to assimilate complex issues into understandable language and preference for finding solutions despite emotional differences were cited. My ability has only improved since then, as has my base of support.”
Gardner was asked to run for the seat by Weddington Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry, who asked his council for a vote of support in her favor Monday, Jan. 9. The Weddington council voted unanimously to support Gardner as the vice chair nominee.
“I feel we need a vice chair who will work for all of Union County, instead of using her position to give political opinions,” Barry said.
Barry serves as Weddington’s alternate candidate for the board. He pointed to the board’s discussions over the direction of the Monroe Bypass in 2010, when Paxton announced she was only voting in support of the route due to the direction of her town council, before discussing why she felt it was a bad idea.
“I’ve been honored to hold that position for the last two years and I believe that I have handled my duties as Vice Chair effectively,” Paxton said. “I’ve represented the county and the MUMPO board well while maintaining a strong regional perspective and objectivity, which is important for the office. Mayor Gardner expressed interest in the office when I was first elected in 2010 but it appears she is now waging a real campaign for the seat.”
Gardner said the vice chair needs to do more than just be available for meetings.
“We need someone who will work with the chair to strategize for and lobby at whatever levels we can on behalf of the organization and it’s goals,” Gardner said. “That means trips to Raleigh to attend Board of Transportation meetings and meet (Transportation Secretary) Conti and (North Carolina Department of Transportation official) Jim Trogdon.”
Gardner also said she felt the vice chair needed a group of transportation professionals and citizens he or she could turn to, to help understand the needs of the region, before attending meetings.
“That (ensures) that when we go into those meetings, we not only have our current issue down pat but also understand the alternatives and context in a way that allows us to have effective conversations with those who are holding the keys to where the resources area, so we can get more accomplished in our region.”
Paxton said in six years of service on the transportation board, her record speaks for itself.
“I’ve been on the board for 6 years and I’d like to continue to serve in the Vice Chair position but I’m not campaigning and ultimately it will be whatever is the pleasure of the board,” Paxton said.