Williams, Dreffer not seeking re-election in Davidson
by Staff Writer
by Frank DeLoache
DAVIDSON – Possibly the most significant news about the final list of candidates running for town board this fall are the names of those not running, including Margo Williams, the senior member of the Board of Commissioners.
With Williams and one-term Commissioner Tim Dreffer not seeking re-election, the board is guaranteed significant change and the commissioners’ race more competitive. After 16 years on the board, Williams plans to remain active in Davidson initiatives but at “a different table and a different seat.” (See related article).
Unlike two years ago, Davidson voters also have a race for mayor. Incumbent John Woods filed for re-election last week and is seeking his third term as mayor. Opposing him is Vince Winegardner, a member of the Davidson Planning Board and one of the organizers of the new Davidson Coalition for Fiscal Responsibility. (See related article).
Woods, 62, who serves as first vice president of Peoples Bank, served as a town commissioner from 1997 to 2007. In a written statement, Woods addressed the issue that has affected in some way almost all other discussions of town government: MI-Connection, the broadband company Davidson and Mooresville purchased in 2007.
“I feel a very strong responsibility for the success of MI Connection, as I participated as town commissioner in 2007 in the approval of this effort. Acknowledging the controversial nature of this decision, the effects of the on-going recession and increased competition from industry giants, I am determined to help make this decision right for our town. …
“Thus, I will make every possible effort to continue to gather the executive talent from among our dedicated citizenry to serve as directors, attract the best employees to manage the day-to-day operations while encouraging each of us as residential and commercial users to support the effort, creating the financial success we seek.”
The mayor also wants the chance to continue serving as vice chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Commission and chairman of the commission’s subsidiary Red Line Task Force, focusing on bringing a commuter rail line to Mecklenburg’s three northern towns and Mooresville.
“In addition, I will continue to focus on our community’s representation in other regional efforts, with excellent working relationships with our neighboring towns,” Wood said, as well as Charlotte, local county governments and the legislature.
Board of Commissioners
In the commissioners’ race, incumbents Brian Jenest, Laurie Venzon and Connie Wessner are seeking re-election. Davidson attorney Jim Fuller also filed for election last week, joining challengers Kristen Coupal, Rodney Graham and Mickey Pettus.
Jenest, 54, serves as managing principal of the ColeJenest & Stone landscape architecture and civil engineering firm. He is seeking his third term on the town board, where he has spent much energy on transportation projects, including bringing a high-occupancy toll lane on Interstate 77 to Davidson, securing support for the northern commuter rail line and planning a north-south roadway east of N.C. 150. The state expects to begin construction on the toll lane in 2014.
A 1979 graduate of N.C. State University’s College of Design, Jenest currently chairs the Lake Norman Transportation Commission and serves as the Davidson representative to the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, the regional group that sets road priorities. He formerly served on the Davidson Planning Board.
Among other priorities for the next two years, Jenest wants to attract business to Circles at 30 that is compatible with the town’s I-77 gateway and to downtown that fits “our urban, mixed-use, pedestrian-scaled village.” The town needs to settle on a development strategy for its N.C. 73 corridor that fits Davidson’s comprehensive plan and development coming from Huntersville, he said.
Besides supporting affordable housing and preserving open space, Jenest promises to “restore faith in Town Hall” by offering “more transparency and open discussion regarding issues of importance to our citizens.”
Also seeking her third term on the town board, Venzon took an earlier retirement package from Bank of America, after 21 years with the company, during which she rose to senior vice president for strategic sourcing. In a written statement, Venzon said she would “focus on ensuring MI-Connection becomes solvent, so that we can sell it without creating an additional burden on taxpayers.”
She also will continue to scrutinize town funding and “support our businesses and encourage economic development.”
“The demographics of our town have dramatically changed in the last 10 years, the economic landscape over the last three years has drastically changed and our financial challenges have increased in the last two years. We can either allow these factors and tides of change to divide us and pull apart the very fiber of our town, or we can pull together, face the issues, work on solutions, adapt and become stronger. I want to be a part of the latter and will work hard to achieve that goal.”
Wessner, 48, works as administrator of Community School of Davidson and represented the town on a countywide task force that studied the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library System. During months of meetings, Wessner proved a strong voice for saving community library branches, and following the task force’s recommendation, county commissioners restored funding to the library system this year.
In her two years on the board, Wessner said the town as a whole has continued to “evolve the management and marketing of MI-Connection” and reorganized Town Hall to reflect citizen priorities for “economic development, infrastructure maintenance, fiscal management and financial analysis, wellness and quality-of-life programming and high-quality public safety services.”
She’s proud of the town’s plan for marketing downtown, Circles at 30 near I-77 and South Main Street; certification for the town’s police department by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies; and board’s new twice-yearly community chats.
In the coming two years, her top priorities are “preserving our stock of affordable housing,” supporting public art, protecting open space and strengthening “the town’s relationship with our downtown merchants” and regional businesses moving to town.
She also wants to support MI-Connection’s “new leadership team,” add subscribers and “explore strategies for improving the company’s financial position.”
Fuller has never run for the town board before, but he’s immersed himself in town activities since he and his wife, Jean, moved into their Spinnaker Cove home a decade ago. A former judge on the N.C. Court of Appeals and now an attorney with the McIntosh Law Firm, Fuller previously served as president of the Davidson Lands Conservancy, and on the board of Davidson Community Players. He currently sits on the town’s planning board and chaired the Growth Management Committee when the town created its Comprehensive Plan.
Fuller offers three priorities, which he says are equally important because they depend on each other. He wants to keep Davidson a “small town in fact and a small town in feel” by supporting parks, bike and cycling trails and open space. He wants to strengthen police and fire services, including raising pay and creating an initiative, along the line of the public library campaign, to create a fund guaranteeing $1 million to the family of any officer killed in the line of duty.
His third priority is the town’s budget and its obligation to MI-Connection. Fuller proposes creating a task force “of the best and brightest people we have” to chart a plan that will ultimately see the town free of the cable TV-broadband company.
At the same tim23e, he would make the “best-ever marketing effort to reach out to businesses and homeowners” because increasing subscribers will relieve pressure on the town and make the company more attractive to buyers.
“For my 2 cents worth, business is not the place for government,” he said. “I don’t think that was a good decision, but I think it was made by very good, thoughtful people … But it’s 2011, and I’m ready to leave 2007 and look toward 2012, ’13 and ’14.”