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Cornelius News

It’s Bilodeau vs. Washam: 2 candidates, 1 job

Denis Bilodeau (left), Woody Washam (right)

Oct. 25. By Dave Yochum. For the first time in 15 years there is competition for the top elected job in Cornelius: Denis Bilodeau vs. Woody Washam, the three-term incumbent.

Both were elected town commissioners—Washam for two terms åthe most votes in the non-partisan elections held every two years.

Both are members of the North Mecklenburg Rotary, the venerable community service organization which meets at The Peninsula Club every Wednesday over lunch.

Both live on the west side of town, while Washam in a native and Bilodeau has called Cornelius home for 22 years.

Both are married and have two adult children.

Both are retired—Washam had a successful career in banking, although he still works some for United Bank, and Bilodeau had an equally stellar career in insurance, selling his firm to the late, lamented Aquesta Bank.

Washam is 72, Bilodeau, 68.

Both are affable and well-educated—Bilodeau is a graduate of the University of Connecticut; Catawba College is Washam’s alma mater.

We asked them both the same questions for this installment of local election coverage leading up to Early Voting which starts county-wide tomorrow. Their answers are below.

Why are you running for mayor?

Bilodeau: I believe a healthy exchange of ideas during campaign season and competition for your seat is important for all elected positions including mayor. As an incumbent, knowing that your position will be contested in two years will bring a stronger sense of urgency and accountability.

Our current mayor has been unopposed for all of his three terms. During the last election, over 400 voters expressed a desire for an alternate mayoral candidate via write-in ballot. I am running for mayor in order to bring new energy and a sense of urgency to addressing the issues most important to our citizens. I will utilize my proven leadership skills and experience to deepen the effectiveness of communication between citizens and our town board. I have recently retired and it would be an honor to serve as your full-time mayor.

Washam: I am running for re-election because I love our town and I care deeply about its future.

I’m pleased with the many things we’ve accomplished since I was elected mayor in 2017 as well as during my four years as mayor pro-tem. We’ve worked hard to tackle the challenges facing our growing region, but there is more to be done.

We must control growth, continue to prioritize public safety, keep our tax rate the lowest in the region, and work with the state to expedite funding for much-needed transportation projects.  Workforce housing and expanding our parks (especially adding more pickleball courts!) will continue to be priorities as well.

As a native and lifelong resident of Cornelius, this town and its residents are very special to me. I’m proud of our town, and I’m dedicated to preserving our Cornelius way of life.

You both voted against the project on Bailey Road but with  Cornelius largely built-out, why vote no on a commercial ratable?

Bilodeau: Quite simply, the proposed commercial warehouse project was not a good fit for Bailey Rd east of Hwy. 115. If you have ever traveled Bailey Road while school is in session, then you are aware of the significant safety issues that exist on that stretch of road. Inviting large delivery trucks to enter a project across from the entrance to Bailey Road Park is a recipe for disaster.

I will always evaluate and place a high priority on citizen feedback. It has been argued that I should not have listened to the over 600 citizens that opposed the project as they do not speak for all 32,000 in Cornelius. Ironically, these critics lean on the opinion of a Land Use Committee which was comprised of eight citizens and two commissioners (myself included) as gospel. The committee was thoughtful and worked hard, however I will be the first to admit we need to take another look at Bailey Road east. I respect the rights of the property owner and we need to find a land use option that satisfies all.

There are several large commercial developments approved but not yet completed in our town which will have a positive impact on our tax mix. We must continue to look for more where it makes sense.

Washam: Simply put, the town of Cornelius belongs to the people of Cornelius and a clear majority of the people made it known that they did not support this project. As we chart the path for what we want Cornelius to be, it is our job as elected officials to listen to our fellow residents and be their voice.

Families and businesses want to move to Cornelius because of the high quality of life we enjoy here, and it is essential, as we consider how our town grows (and doesn’t grow) and what projects we support (and don’t support) that we protect our Cornelius way of life.