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Cornelius News

Washam era begins, anti-toll leader takes seat on town board

Dec. 5. By Dave Yochum. What America is known for, democracy and the orderly transfer of power, occurred as planned Monday night at Town Hall. Newly installed Mayor Woody Washam started by presiding over a public hearing on a proposed daycare center on Westmoreland.

Washam, Travis

Traffic concerns were immediately raised by residents and the new Board of Commissioners.

The new commissioners also revived the Transportation Advisory Board, to be comprised of citizens. It will advise on roads and the transportation impact of development. The TAB was ordered dormant back in 2013 when sentiments in Town Hall favored the plan for tolls and original toll-fighter Kurt Naas was merely a member of the TAB.

Naas, of course, just won a seat on the town board and became the town’s representative on the newly created I-77 Advisory Board. Interestingly enough, in one of his last acts as mayor, Chuck Travis had appointed Commissioner Mike Miltich to the I-77 board. The new board, with Miltich’s approval as well as Washam’s , promptly overturned Travis’ choice, which veteran Commissioner Dave Gilroy called “horse—-.”

Washam was gracious. He presented the outgoing mayor with a plaque for his service to the town over the past 11 years, first on the Planning Board, then as a commissioner and finally as mayor during the past four years.

The meeting had just the right amount of pomp and circumstance: Citizen Margaret Boggs— fondly referred to as the Mayor of The Peninsula—led the

NC Rep. John Bradford


audience in the Pledge of Allegiance . The Heaven’s Reign Quartet from Mt. Zion United Methodist Church sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” Travis and the board recognized two-term Commissioner Jim Duke for his service. NC Rep. John Bradford, a former member of the Town Board, administered the oath of office to Washam.

The meeting also showcased regional cooperation , which is key to transportation planning and overturning the 50-year contract with Cintra for tolls on I-77 : The incoming mayor of Davidson, Rusty Knox, as well as four new Davidson commissioners and incumbent Jim Fuller attended and introduced themselves. Knox will be sworn in  next week at Davidson Town Hall.

Travis, in a valedictory speech, said during 11 years in town government he was part of the creation of the architectural review board, new guidelines for east side of town and improving fire and police protection.

Road improvements worth more than $200 million are coming in next five years, thanks to the I-77 toll plan and the “bonus allocation” from the state . “The town will have never seen anything like this,” he said.

While there was no applause when Travis concluded his remarks, there was when Washam thanked Travis for his service and accomplishments.

Travis, a noted architect, said “Exit 27 needs to happen,” as well as improvements to Main Street.  Exit 27, at Westmoreland, would help bring offices and employment to Cornelius. In the grand strategy of things, it means jobs closer to home and less commuter traffic. He also called for commuter rail—the Red Line extension up to Lake Norman—and more bus rapid transit.

Travis took pains to thank residents for the opportunity to serve as mayor , a position he said he never expected to hold. He ran unopposed two years ago, but declined to run this past year. He said he would stay in Cornelius and continue to attend events at the 911 Monument and the Veterans Monument at Rotary Plaza.

“I must tell you in all honesty that I never thought I would be standing here as m ayor as this type of position is really beyond my comfort zone , ” Travis said. “However I love this town and its residents and have seen many wonderful changes during my tenure.”

The new board also unanimously agreed top vote-getter Michael Miltich would be mayor pro tem during the next two years, filling in during Mayor Washam’s absence.

Duke, Travis, Washam

Newly elected commissioner Denis Bilodeau w as also sworn in , as well as Naas and incumbents Thurman Ross and Gilroy. Miltich was traveling and will be sworn in at the Dec. 18 meeting.

Duke says he will miss serving on the Town Board, but will remain engaged in public service. As a private citizen, he spearheaded the fight against outrageous water bills, resulting in a turnover at the top of Charlotte Mecklenburg Utility Department.

Duke, with his wife Carolyn in the audience, thanked fellow town board members as well as the residents for their support. “Good people ran, and good people won. I wish them well” he said. Duke lost by six votes, having spent more than $20,000 on his re-election campaign.