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Cornelius News

Tricia Sisson is our first female commissioner since 2013

Tricia Sisson outside Town Hall

By Dave Yochum. Men’s brains have more gray matter than women’s, while women’s brains have more white matter than men. Gray matter is all about information processing and white matter is all about connecting different parts of the brain and different processes.

We have a lot of information processing going on in Cornelius government since 2013, when former Commissioner and Mayor Lynette Rinker left the town board. That changed this week when Tricia Sisson was sworn in along with the mayor and four other commissioners.

She garnered 2,412 votes in a seven-way race, beating long-time commissioner Dave Gilroy by more than 300 votes. It was Sisson’s second try for Town Board; two years ago Michelle Ferlauto and Ava Callender also ran. All three lost.

“The theory is the three of us split the vote. It was an interesting dynamic,” Sisson said.

Over the past few years, town issues like pay raises for first responders moved along contentiously with five men on the Town Board.

“Women approach problem-solving differently than men,” said Sisson, a successful businesswoman. “Men tend to think in a more linear manner—they have all their thoughts in a row—and women draw ideas from many places.”

Diversity helps the decision-making process whether it’s in government or business.

She tells the story of her mother going to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled. Both kids were sick and they needed medications. Her mother had to write a check that would bounce to get the prescriptions.

She did.

Sisson’s father was a superintendent at Siemens Allis and her mom worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

She worked at a Zayre Department Store as a cashier handling layaways back before the days of maniacal Black Friday shopping.

At 54, Sisson is the youngest member of a Town Board that includes retirees and one black member, long-time Commissioner Thurman Ross. The other board members are Denis Bilodeau, Dr. Mike Miltich and Jim Duke, who got back on the board after a two-year absence.

Sisson spent less than $900 on her campaign, which includes campaign signs (and an ad in Cornelius Today). She managed her campaign without a campaign consultant this time.

She has a number of goals that relate to her background in business—she and husband Brian, a former Huntersville commissioner—own The Range at Lake Norman, a shooting range on Bailey Road. She also manages more than $100 million in consumer products sales for Clorox.

Her secret to success in sales? “Talk a lot less and listen a lot more.”

The Sissons opened the shooting range in Cornelius in 2011, and moved their home here three years ago. Many people say the Sissons themselves were over-scrutinized over the exterior colors of their building on Bailey Road.

Tricia Sisson wants to see to it that property owner rights are protected. “Cornelius residents’ properties in almost all cases are their most valuable assets, and it is imperative their ownership rights are protected and held in highest regard,” she said.

She said the fundamental role of government is to provide essential services, not get too deeply involved in what property owners can and can’t do.

“Infringing on a property owner’s rights can get to be a very slippery slope,” she said.

Under the town code, property owners have certain rights from a development standpoint. When developers ask for changes, then the town commissioners may get involved but they “shouldn’t just dismiss the project” because it isn’t exactly what was envisioned or what one commissioner might want to see.

“You won’t find anyone on that town board who believes there should be high density…there are proscriptive rules around high density and none of the recent projects have met the definition of high density,” the UNC-Chapel Hill grad says.

She also plans to work on finding ways to improve the current budget, “and further reduce the tax rate and the burden that has been placed on Cornelius residents and businesses following the county wide revaluation.”

That said, she wants to maintain the town’s excellent quality of life and the “impeccable safety and security we enjoy due to our outstanding police and First Responders.”

She has a passion for the community, including volunteering for Big Day at the Lake. She and Brian have been Boat Hosts for 15 years.

Her one-year term as volunteer chair of the Lake Norman Chamber expires as she takes her seat on the Cornelius Town Board. In the past year, she also served on the local education options committee which outlined alternatives to Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.

Despite losing two years ago, she “stayed really involved” with the town and the chamber. She has served the Lake Norman region in various roles for more than a dozen years focusing on education, small business, women-owned businesses and economic development.

“I have a passion to serve my community,” she said.

On her first job at a department store…

“I started in the men’s department, worked my way up to cashier and then customer service. My favorite hours were midnight to 8 a.m. the week before Christmas when we were open 24 hours. That shift paid time and a half, and that was a lot of money when minimum wage was $3.85 an hour!”