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Cornelius News

The Travis years: 11 years in the spotlight ending

Chuck Travis

By Dave Vieser. On Dec. 4, as Chuck Travis presides over his final town board meeting as Cornelius mayor, town officials and residents will be looking back on four years of accomplishments—and profound disagreements. Differences of opinion on the I-77 toll lane project often overwhelmed other achievements during his tenure, including the town’s strong financial status and real progress toward a new community arts center.

Travis, 58, actually served the town for 11 years, including three years on the Planning Commission and four years as a commissioner and four more as mayor. He was originally elected mayor in 2013, and ran unopposed in 2015. His four-year tenure as mayor elicits mixed comments from both fellow town officials and residents.

“What I experienced was a leader with a huge heart,” said Michelle Hoverson, executive director of the Neighborhood CARE Center on Smith Circle. “He got great joy on our trash removal day just knowing economically challenged families were getting a little help to improve the aesthetics of their environment.”

Travis did not comment for this article.

Woody Washam, a two-term member of the Town Board, will be sworn in as mayor in December. He says the outgoing mayor’s “architectural expertise and creativity was beneficial and that will be missed. However, during much of his time as mayor, he did not possess the political capital required to achieve many of his desired outcomes. Dialogue, conversation and relationships with board members are important and was often lacking. While very pleasant to be around, consensus-building was not one of his strong suits.”

Friction between Travis and the board was apparent in 2015 and 2016. A convoluted, one-sided 50-year contract for “Lexus lanes” on I-77 proved to be his undoing.

It all came to a head on June 15, 2016, when his board members unanimously approved a vote of no confidence in the mayor.

Travis and Davidson Mayor John Woods had gone to Raleigh unannounced where they met with N.C. Sen. Phil Berger to press for the CINTRA toll lane contract. The betrayal infuriated the town board, as well as business leaders and countless residents.

The resolution said “the mayor’s views are in opposition to the Town Board and the community and he grossly misrepresented the situation in a town where hundreds of people have gathered on the Exit 28 bridge to protest the toll plan, not once, but twice.”

Travis refused to step down.

A convoy of Lake Norman business and political leaders rushed to Raleigh for a press conference to make it abundantly clear that Travis was out there on his own, and on thin ice. Nevertheless, for reasons unclear to business and political leaders here, the toll plan moved forward.

Travis waited until just before the election filing deadline to say that he would not seek a third term. In Davidson, meanwhile, Mayor Woods did seek re-election and was soundly defeated in November.

There’s no doubt that Travis worked hard for the town. “I served with Chuck when he co-chaired the Lake Norman Transportation Commission,” said Lake Norman Chamber CEO Bill Russell. “While his views related to managed lanes on I-77 may not have mirrored that of the chamber of commerce, no one ever doubted his commitment to the region, where he served as a tremendous ambassador.”

One of the strongest critics of Travis on the toll lane project was veteran Commissioner Dave Gilroy, a fellow Republican. “As is well known, Chuck and I vehemently disagreed on several major policy issues. However, Chuck also shared my view that we could disagree on policy, without being disagreeable on a personal level. We often strongly agreed on the pursuit of the highest standards of quality in every development project worthy of board approval and he served our community absolutely brilliantly in all of his mayoral duties as our Town’s de facto master of ceremonies.”

There is plenty of speculation he might switch parties and run on a state level. For now, he is not saying what he might do in the political arena.