Several familiar names being discussed as his replacement

by Josh Lanier

HUNTERSVILLE – Commissioner Ken Lucas tendered his resignation from the town board Monday, May 16, effective after the June 6 board meeting.

Lucas, a two-term Republican, said he decided to step down to spend more time with his son after being granted custody of the boy earlier this year in a divorce.

“I had to make the decision: I could either be a good commissioner or a good father,” he said after the meeting, “and that was a no brainer.”

Lucas’ departure comes at an interesting time for the board. Commissioners are in the middle of serious budget negotiations and are on the front edge of a likely heated election season. Candidate filings begin next month.

The board is expected to vote on the budget June 6, Lucas’ final meeting, but if the board defers or delays a decision, a new commissioner voted into his seat will have to immediately step into the fray.

“There’s a very steep learning curve,” Lucas said. “It’s going to need to be somebody who is very familiar with the town’s policies and board that can step in right away.”

Lucas’ departure has been a closely guarded secret, known among only a handful during the past week, but already several names have been volleyed about the town’s rumor mill as a likely replacement.

Some of those include former Commissioner Brian Sisson, Planning Board Chairman Bruce Andersen and Planning Board Vice Chairman Sam Mount.

When reached at his home Tuesday, May 17, Sisson said Lucas had approached him about filling his vacated seat.

“He asked me a while back that if he were to step down, would I be willing to take over his seat?” Sisson said. “He said he believed the people who elected him were likely the same people who elected me … because our ideals and political ideologies are similar.”

Sisson said he would consider taking over the seat. Sisson served on the town board from 2001 to 2009 and as mayor pro-tem from 2005 to 2009.

Andersen and Mount could not be reached for comment before the Herald Weekly’s press deadline.

Commissioner Charlie Jeter said he wants the pick for Lucas’ replacement to be a-political.

“My hope is that we get someone in that seat that isn’t going to run for election in November,” he said. “I hope we put someone up that is going to keep up with what we’re already working on but isn’t going to get tacit board approval backing their campaign.”

Sisson, who is currently developing an indoor gun range in Cornelius, said he has “no plans at this time” to run for election in November.

Town Manager Greg Ferguson said board members will nominate people to be Lucas’ replacement, and the board will vote for or against that nomination. A simple majority is all that is required.

Lucas will get to vote on his replacement if he or she is chosen at the June 6 meeting, Ferguson said, which is expected.

At the Monday town board meeting, commissioners thanked Lucas for his time of the board as they unanimously voted to accept the resignation.

Lucas expects he’ll likely move from away the area after receiving some job offers out of state. Lucas left his position as a vice president at Bank of America earlier this year and has since been working as a security consultant for IFCL, a trucking and transportation company owned by Commissioner Jeter.

“I’ve had some opportunities in places as far away as California, Texas and Singapore,” Lucas said. “It’s just going to come down to what is best for my family.”

Budget meeting scheduled

The Huntersville town board will hold an informational meeting Monday, May 23, at 1 p.m. about the 2011-12 budget. Commissioners have discussed two proposed budgets so far.

One will add about $20 to the tax bill of a home valued at $200,000, but includes no cuts to town services. The second, a “revenue neutral” budget, meaning no increase to the average tax bill, would drop the tax rate to 27.5 cents per $100 of assessed value but makes cuts to nearly every town department.

On Monday, the board held a public hearing about the budget. Resident Janet Spain was the only person to speak. Spain said she favored the “small” tax increase over cutting back on town services or not providing staff with a proposed 3 percent pay increase.

“I believe we have the best staff of any town that anyone could wish for anywhere,” she told the board. “(The staff) will leave our town and go places where they’re better compensated. This hard working staff hasn’t had a pay increase in three years. Let’s not continue this trend.

Residents can see those budget proposals on the town’s website,