Bensman decides not to run again in Cornelius
by Staff Writer
by Frank DeLoache
CORNELIUS – Jim Bensman decided on a recent cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia, that he would not run for a fifth term on the Cornelius Board of Commissioners.
Bensman will turn 68 in August, and he and his wife, Celia, decided they wanted their two grandchildren in Philadelphia to know their grandparents. That would be difficult with the amount of time Bensman devotes to meetings and town business.
“When you have to choose between family and anything, family is going to win,” Bensman said after sending out an e-newsletter announcing his decision. The Bensmans’ son, Mark, and his wife, Wendy, have an 18-month-old son, Cameron James, and a 4-month-old daughter, Alexandra Lilly.
“I don’t want this to come across as sour grapes because it’s not,” Bensman said. “I’m not upset with anybody. This has been coming for a long time. I’ve been thinking about this since the last election (in 2009). I don’t want to leave bad feelings because I don’t have bad feelings.”
At the same time, Bensman said in his announcement: “I am mentally exhausted by the political climate here and just cannot deal with it anymore.”
“One of the things I’ve been noticing is a difference in tone of the population,” he told the Herald Weekly. “Not just here. It’s everywhere. All of a sudden, people are getting angry. They’re getting confrontational. They’re drawing lines in the sand rather than working toward a solution. They’re fighting. People don’t always tell the truth.”
Bensman has long been one of the more outspoken, opinionated members of the Cornelius board. But he’s often been right on key issues.
He helped organize the Lake Norman Transportation Commission, bringing Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and Mooresville together to lobby for road improvements with one voice. He’s served on the Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization and has pushed regional and state leaders to recognize the importance of widening Interstate 77 – an effort that is now paying dividends.
He’s also advocated for the economic benefits of getting the Red Line commuter train and supported a town tax increase to speed up the widening of Catawba Avenue west of I-77, a project that proved immensely popular among residents. He lead the effort to build the town’s animal shelter, which was constructed with a combination of town funds and a community fundraising effort.
Most recently, Bensman saw the coming train wreck between the town and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce on funding for Visit Lake Norman. He warned that hoteliers and other tourism-related businesses would not compromise on getting lawmakers to take funding decisions away from the three towns.
He also maintained that Visit Lake Norman had never shown accountability for spending taxpayer dollars, which drew a rebuke and warning last week from former chamber President John Hettwer. “The business community has always been a friend to Jim Bensman, and I would be careful not to alienate them (especially before an election). You have enough people gunning for you. Why take on the business community?”
A Peninsula resident, Bensman also alienated some of his neighbors when he challenged the homeowners’ association request for the town to share in installing decorative pedestrian safety lights along Jetton Road.
A Wisconsin native, Bensman and his wife moved to Cornelius in 1996. He has worked as CEO for six or seven small- to medium-sized computer software companies and remains chairman of the Philadelphia-based Probaris software firm. He and his wife will continue operating their Camp Wagging Tails dog kennel in Cornelius.
Bensman will finish with 10 years on the board, elected to three two-year terms and one four-year term.