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Cornelius News

Aneralla reflects on 6 years as mayor of Huntersville

John Aneralla

NORTH MECK | By Dave Yochum

John Aneralla will step down at the end of this year after six years as mayor of Huntersville. He was the first of a new era of mayors in North Meck, replacing Jill Swain.  Aneralla, one of the first leaders to speak out against the toll plan, defeated Swain 60 percent to 40 percent in what was seen as a referendum on the plan to toll I-77 between Lake Norman and Charlotte.

Two years later, Woody Washam defeated then-mayor Chuck Travis in Cornelius, who was pro toll, and Rusty Knox defeated then-mayor John Woods, who was also pro-toll.

Much has changed since Aneralla was elected in 2015. It’s interesting to note that both Travis and Woods ran unopposed that year.

“The mayor’s role is to build consensus, be consistent on the issues and weigh in when a controversial vote is about to take place to help move the issue forward,” he said.

Aneralla is a faithful member of the Lake Norman Kiwanis Club which meets weekly at Brooklyn South

At 58, the long-time financial advisor has no plans to run for another public office. So far, the only declared candidate in Huntersville is Melinda Bales, a commissioner. But that can change up until filing closes in July.

We asked Aneralla to list his Top Five achievements as mayor. Here are his answers:

Keeping taxes low and being fiscally responsible

Huntersville is the only community in Mecklenburg County to NOT raise property taxes over the past 6 years at the same time increasing town run road projects, investing in greenways for the first time, assuming the policing of the ETJ, building new recreation facilities and bringing in-house employees to improve efficiencies.

“One of my biggest regrets is that the town has not pursued its own municipal charter school. A municipal charter will provide much needed capacity to North Meck students, while minimally impacting the town’s budget. CMS continues to have misplaced priorities when it comes to school funding and has still not provided a new rubric that would more objectively allocate new school funding, almost two years after it was promised.”

We also eliminated thousands of dollars of membership fees, a million dollar plus event center, sold millions of dollars of town assets, partnered with schools and athletic clubs for improved recreation facilities, managed debt and fund balance to save over $600,000 per year in interest and much more.

New management for Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics

One of the best decisions the board made was hiring a new management company for HFFA. The new management has completely turned the facility around from losing $500,000-$750,000 per year on a $3.5 million budget to earning a profit and paying down debt owed to the town’s general fund. They have performed extraordinarily well during the pandemic managing to make a slight profit despite being closed for a portion of the year and having limited capacity when opened.

Investing in greenways

Prior to becoming Mayor, the town had never invested in Greenways, therefore the town lagged behind other communities in our area. By partnering with Mecklenburg County as well as directly funding parts of our “Vine” greenway system, the town will go from two miles of greenway to almost 14 miles over the next few years. Greenways are the No. 1 amenity asked for by citizens.

Engaging the business and education communities

We held numerous collaborative meetings with business and area schools connecting our businesses with our students and educators from middle school to colleges. Also, organized many business meetings to proactively discuss issue in Huntersville, especially future road projects.

Leading for citizens

As the largest community in Mecklenburg County outside of Charlotte, I felt Huntersville needed to be in the forefront on issues affecting our citizens. While we didn’t always accomplish our goals, we led on many transportation and education issues (HB514), pushing back on Charlotte and the County on tax matters, and recently leading the effort to open up our economy during the pandemic—balancing common sense with health concerns.

NORTH MECK is our new monthly feature on the community around us. In July, we’ll preview the new Northern Regional Recreation Center.