Bensman leaves Cornelius but his impact remains
by Staff Writer
During the time Jim Bensman served and lived in Cornelius, he made an impact on local politics and the town’s development.
Bensman, a Cornelius commissioner from 2001-2011, said he is most proud of the town’s ability to gain a strong financial footing through fiscal management while keeping the tax rate low.
Cornelius has been able to install a strong town staff “and just a great group of people that are committed to providing quality service to the community,” he said.
Over the past decade, Cornelius has seen some major changes, including three Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in Cornelius - J.V. Washam Elementary, Bailey Middle and Hough High – the widening of West Catawba Avenue and building the Westmoreland Athletic Complex and Robbins Park.
All this while keeping the budget “under control and not having to borrow money for (these projects),” said Bensman, who opened Camp Wagging Tails, a full-service pet grooming and boarding business in Cornelius.
After seven years of work and raising nearly $500,000 from the town and the community, Bensman’s love for animals lead to the creation of the Cornelius Animal Shelter.
“Bensman, basically with his bare hands, brought to life the animal shelter,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lynette Rinker. “It was one of his ‘pet projects.’ It’s very unusual for a town our size to have animal shelter but it came about out of his sheer determination. That is a huge legacy he leaves for our town.”
Things, however, didn’t always go as Bensman wanted.
He commented on one of his lows, saying there was, “political-insiding, where some people were unwilling to stand up publicly for what they believe in.”
Last year, Bensman decided not to run for re-election after a decade on the town board. He and his wife sold Camp Wagging Tails to spend more time focused on family.
But leaving office didn’t keep Bensman away from town issues. He said leaving the board allowed him to take on the county’s 2010 revaluation without having to deal with legal roadblocks and depending on the board to vote for the issue.
“Local government was not very responsive or supportive, which made it difficult to get the county to do something about the revaluation,” he said. “Cornelius was hardest hit in the county, but it was a lot easier for me not being in office to organize the opposition to what happened and to get people motivated and organized to challenge the county on what they did.”
Bensman is proud of the town’s accomplishments, and won’t be dropping Cornelius from his radar.
“I put a lot of time in (the revaluation), and I didn’t have anything to gain personally. I just saw so many people in dire straights and no one was helping them out. So we got in the right direction as far as I can tell, but its not over till its over.”
Even though he will be in Colorado, he will keep in touch with the other members of the team he put together to patrol the county’s revaluation. He will also continue to keep in touch with town residents through electronic mediums like his newsletter which goes to more than 1,000 Cornelius residents.
“Jim was like the quarterback for the revaluation project. He was the watch dog and made sure the issue didn’t die,” said Bill Russell, Lake Norman Chamber President. “He will be sorely missed.”