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Cornelius News

Mayor Washam will seek a third term. Here’s why.

Woody Washam ran unopposed for a second term in 2019

By Dave Yochum. Woody Washam, a town commissioner, mayor pro tem, and chamber chairman, was almost destined to be mayor of Cornelius. It’s not that “Washam” is in four street names in Cornelius—up from two when he first was elected—the North Meck High School graduate was born and raised here, seemingly studying for the job for 70 years.

He began playing the organ at Mt. Zion when Lyndon Johnson was president; he’s probably attended more local funerals and weddings than anyone in Cornelius.

A veteran banker, he likes people to call him Woody, or mayor—whatever they’re comfortable with.

Former Commissioner Dave Gilroy said Washam is highly collaborative and represents the town “extremely well.”

The Cornelius form of government 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, the strength of his vision and the power of persuasion.

It’s about building consent and having respect for those who disagree. Dissenters will be needed on another vote where three votes are needed on the five-member board.

Strategic announcement

In an exclusive interview, Washam said he will run for a third term as mayor. It’s early to announce—the official filing period in Mecklenburg County doesn’t open for another seven months—but staking your claim now has benefits including early commitments of moral and financial support.

“I have had wonderful support and encouragement from my family, including Cornelius’ First Lady Sharon Washam, as well as so many citizens and friends to seek another term as mayor,” Washam said. “I remain as excited as ever that there is a very bright future ahead for our great town.”

The town has come a long way since Washam was first elected to the commission in 2013.

Communities like Antiquity and Bailey’s Glen were still new. Four bond referendums have passed since then, totaling $45 million for roads, parks, greenways and the Town Center Development.

In 2014, the town completed a major overhaul of the Land Use Plan and tweaks are under way.

Washam focused attention on affordable housing and social and racial equity, forming the Mayor’s Housing Committee Task Force. The town is also hiring its first-ever full-time firefighters.

“We have more distance to travel but have truly come a long way in seven short years,” Washam said.

Cain Center groundbreaking

The Cain Center for the Arts (CCA) will likely break ground during the first half of 2021 with demolition of the existing buildings wrapping up in January and some site work starting in February.

“After that we will move toward groundbreaking and the construction will start ASAP,” said Washam, who has pushed the CCA as an economic development machine for downtown Cornelius.

While all that is happening, the Cain board and staff will be raising funds and preparing for integration with the current Cornelius Arts Center programming that is slated for September of 2021.

“I am super excited that this long-awaited project will begin construction the first part of the new year and will open its doors late 2022. This is truly a transformational event for our town and the entire Lake Norman Region,” the mayor said.

Washam has worked on the transportation front as well.

Even before the most recent NCDOT project delays were announced, the town has consistently worked tirelessly to keep projects on schedule.

“We’ve done this by strategically investing a relatively small share of the town funds to advance and enhance needed road projects,” Washam said.

“We’ve worked with all levels of local, regional and state governments to either kept the projects at pre-delay schedules or to bring them back to as close to the original schedule as possible,” he said.

That includes maintaining the original construction schedule of at least four local projects, including a total re-do of the Hwy. 21/Catawba Avenue intersection, Torrence Chapel and West Catawba, Northcross Drive Extension and a roundabout at North Main and Potts Street.

“Additionally, the design phase for Bailey Road Extension is moving back up,” Washam said.

Meanwhile, the widening of West Catawba from Jetton Road to NC 73 remains the town’s “top priority and we continue to pursue that in every possible way.”

What’s Job 1, 2, 3?

Washam has three principal areas of focus for a third term:

1. Town employees: “I take great pride in the wonderful employees that work for our town.  Keeping personnel salaries and benefits competitive with the market, as even during a pandemic and this affected economy, it remains so important to recruit and retain excellent staff.

2. The Cain Center for the Arts: “It will provide arts, cultural opportunities and education to our community and the region and will definitely bolster much-needed economic development of our Town Center.”

3. Town finances: “It is critical to maintain the town’s strong financial health while planning for the fiscal obligations of needed capital projects and town services such as public safety, park and recreation facilities as well as superb recreational programming.”