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Cornelius News

Mayor Washam: The title fits

Washam, in strictly ceremonial capacity, lays last piece of boardwalk on Antiquity Greenway

Aug. 19. We’re going to be the first to call the mayoral election in November: It’s Woody Washam (again) in a landslide.

The popular businessman, church leader and lifelong resident is running unopposed for a second term. There’s a reason: He’s established a high level of trust, based on past performance.

Dave Gilroy, who has opposed the mayor on some issues such as  the timing of raises for police and staff—and in some cases the need for them—praises the mayor’s style.

“Woody has a lovely, friendly way about him that is highly collaborative, and represents our board extremely well in the community,” Gilroy says.

The Cornelius form of government, like the towns around us, is a weak-mayor system, in that the mayor has no formal authority. He or she doesn’t vote, and cannot directly appoint or remove staff. There’s no veto power, either.

The mayor guides on the basis of personality and the power of persuasion—not his voting power, unless there’s a tie.

Leadership in this kind of setting is based on articulating a vision, listening, building consent and having respect for those who disagree. Rest assured, they will be needed on another vote where three votes are needed to pass on any matter that comes before the five-member board.

It could be a rezoning matter, budget decisions that ultimately determine the tax rate, or passing on a big development, like the Alexander Farm, which will be turned into a high-quality mixed-use project.

The developers are talking to the town now about the urban/suburban planning that goes into the site up front. What should it be?

Washam is helping shape it up front. He was not pleased that the developers failed to include space for a new fire station. “That’s the right area for a third town fire station. Something that would match the development would be ideal,” he said.

It was a suggestion that may stick, keeping in mind that developers have property owner rights, too. A tweaked project will be outlined at a public meeting Aug. 4.

Jeff Tarte is another Cornelius mayor who ran unopposed for second and third terms—affirmation around leadership and effectiveness.

“Leadership is the ability to get results through the actions of others. One exercises leadership, one is not granted leadership,” says Tarte, who went on to the North Carolina Senate.

He helped steer such projects as the widening of West Catawba Avenue from Torrence Chapel to Jetton Road. The NCDOT is actually in charge of these kinds of projects, but a working relationship with local leadership is key.

“We confuse authority and leadership,” Tarte says. “Authority can only be granted. No one is authorized to exercise leadership.”

Former Mayor Chuck Travis also ran unopposed for a second term, but managed to destroy his ability to lead by traveling to Raleigh with former Davidson Mayor John Woods to lobby in favor of the Cintra toll lane project moving forward. Travis survived a no-confidence vote by his board, but lost their trust.

“You can be de-authorized if you exceed the scope of authority,” Tarte said.

Almost as soon as Washam announced that he would run for mayor, the renegade mayor said he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Washam was first elected to the Town Commission in 2013 coming in first in a field of 10 candidates. Fellow commissioners unanimously selected Washam to serve as Mayor Pro-Tem.

Washam, 68, has strong ties to the east side of town, where he was born and raised, and the west side of town, where he lives. He’s been the organist at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church for more than 50 years, playing at countless weddings—and funerals.

The senior vice president at Carolina Trust Bank, is married to Sharon Washam. Devoted grandparents—and dog lovers—they live on Chapel Point Lane.

“The fact that Mayor Washam has no opposition is the ultimate affirmation that the voting citizens of Cornelius, and I rate, him highly effective,” Tarte says.

Mayor Washam Goals:

• Ensure our Public Safety service levels are appropriate for our community. Complete Police and Fire operational and personnel analyses, with recommendations for Town Board consideration.

• Keep $130 million+ of road projects on schedule and prepare our community for the construction.

• Continue buildout of our greenway network to improve the overall health of our residents by providing bike & pedestrian recreational opportunities plus non-motorized options for transportation.

• Complete construction of Antiquity Greenway, North McDowell Creek Greenway (Westmoreland Road to Magnolia Estates Drive), and Plum Creek Greenway (adjacent to Avery Park; Bailey Road to Davidson-Concord Road). Commence construction of Smithville-Washam Greenway (Smithville Park to JV Washam Elementary).

• Improve staff recruitment and retention of our excellent staff to serve citizens.

• Ensuring our tax rate is as low as possible but appropriate to handle our needs to best serve all citizens. This is including servicing our bond debt for important road and park projects. (Which was voted on by citizens and passed by a large margin.)

• Advance community development, including affordable housing planning and infrastructure improvement.

• Continue to work with Smithville on neighborhood improvement planning and implementation.

• Complete Cain Center for the Arts design, campaign and commence construction of the center.

• Promote Downtown/Old Town Cornelius redevelopment and Economic Development through the continued planning and implementation of the Arts District.

• Continue to promote smart planning with strict limits on density and high requirements for quality projects throughout town. Maintain and even improve the high quality of life I have known for a lifetime here in Cornelius.