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A Rare Leader on BOCC

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pat-cotham-2-304There are many reasons why Pat Cotham should be chair of the county commission, including the fact that she received the most votes. However, the reason I support Pat Cotham is one word: leadership. Cotham is a true leader willing to take on the tough issues in a time when members of both parties shy away from stepping up to take responsibility for problems within our government.

Rather than ignoring the flaws of the 2011 tax revaluation, as other commissioners tried to do, she helped lead the charge to reimburse taxpayers for the property taxes they paid on their overvalued properties. Cotham then turned her attention to the reason why the 2011 tax revaluation failed: county manager Harry Jones.

Jones had been a member of Mecklenburg’s government for over a decade and had grown too complacent in his role. Due to the revaluation and past errors, citizens across Mecklenburg were ready for changing the manager, but for years commissioners did not dare take on Jones. Then came Pat Cotham. She was elected in 2012 with the most votes and named Chair of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. Cotham did not back down at the thought of taking on the most powerful man in Mecklenburg County’s government. Once she decided that Jones had to go, she started to plan his dismissal. This was not easy. It required trips to Raleigh to consult with attorneys to make sure everything was done by the book, talking to the members of the board open to the idea of firing Jones, and building a bipartisan coalition to fire Jones. Once she had accomplished these tasks, she dismissed Jones.

Cotham has also been a good steward of taxpayer dollars. She has questioned why some county employees are overpaid, opposed a property tax increase, supported giving teachers a bonus while also lowering the property tax rate, and voted against the now resoundingly defeated sales tax increase. She knows that raising taxes to pay for every budget need is not how to move forward.

Great leaders know how to listen. Cotham has reached out to the people more than any other commissioner on the board. She is always at events listening to what the people have to say. Whether it is a group of teens involved in local issues, people concerned about smoking in public parks, CAUTION, or any other group she is willing to sit down and have a conversation. Matthew Ridenhour said that he did not expect to be listened to by the Democrats on the board. Then one day Cotham got coffee with Ridenhour and talked about guns in parks, an important issue to Ridenhour. Cotham’s willingness to listen to anyone no matter their ideology or political affiliation is a sign of true leadership.

The people of Mecklenburg recognized her leadership and gave her a landslide victory and mandate. However, other Democrats on the board do not wish to give Cotham back the gavel because she dared to not tow the party line. It is time to hold our leaders feet to the fire. If you want Cotham to be chair, please sign and share this petition calling on the commissioners to elect Cotham chair.

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