CORNELIUS – This week’s town board meeting was the second to last for Mayor Jeff Tarte before he becomes a North Carolina state senator, representing the Lake Norman area.

At the Jan. 7 meeting, Tarte will officially resign and then be sworn into the senate by U.S. District Court Judge Frank Whitney.

When that happens, the mayor position will need to be filled and Tarte explained the options available for doing so.

The first option is to fill the spot with Mayor Pro Tem Lynette Rinker, which Tarte said, “would be a natural progression.”

Another option would be appoint any other commissioner on the board.

Rinker is the only board member that said she would like to be considered for the position.

Having Tarte leave the board to go to Raleigh, “is bitter sweet, because even though I am older than Jeff, this is sort of like my big brother going away to college.” Rinker said. “There’s going to be big shoes to fill on this board.”

Town takes applications for commissioner’s seat

Selecting Rinker as mayor would mean there would need to be a second appointment to fill her commissioner seat. The town is now accepting applications for the open commissioner seat with the intent of electing Rinker as interim mayor in early 2013.

The annual salary is $12,000 for mayor and $5,000 for commissioners.

Any Cornelius resident 18 and older is eligible to apply for the position.

“It truly can be anyone in the community,” Tarte said, “but it’s probably best served by someone who has served in committee assignment and roles.”

While other board members agreed that Rinker would be the best person for the mayor position, many worried about filling the commissioner spot.

“I support Lynette being mayor whole heartedly, as long as we find someone to fill her spot,” said Commissioner John Bradford. “Do not count on me to vote for her to move up until we’ve identified someone unanimously to take her spot. Because if we do it the other way, I think we are going about it backward.”

Rinker disagreed, saying, “it didn’t make any sense” to wait for the board to choose someone to be moved her into that position before appointing her as mayor.

“I want to be the next mayor. I have the interest in the town and the time to do the job,” she said. “I am prepared to do what it takes to continue to serve the town. I am ready to step into the job if the board decides for me to do that.”

Whoever is appointed to either the mayor or commissioner position will do so temporarily since the seats will be up for election in November 2013.

Cornelius hires an economic development consultant

The town has hired Don Harrow as a consultant to coordinate local economic development efforts. Harrow will receive $5,000 per month, while performing 25 hours per week of services.

At the Charlotte Chamber’s Quarterly Elected Officials meeting on Dec. 3 in uptown, Rinker said Harrow, “will work hand in hand with local Lake Norman economic development corporation, just to make sure that Cornelius is placed and positions itself in the best possible light, as we move forward to look for new businesses and industries to move into our town. Bottom line, to continue to diversify our tax base, which is right now, 83 percent residential.”

Harrow was grateful for the appointment.

“I’d like to thank the board for this opportunity. I am looking forward to getting started and am excited by it. I think the timing for making this kind of decision is good,” he said.

“The number of people that threw their hat in the ring for this role was massive,” Tarte said. “(Harrow) surfaced to the top very quickly, and it was an easy decision for us. Given the boatload of applicants, you think it would be a very hard decision, but it wasn’t.”

The town outlined measures of success for Harrow’s contract. Some of the initial success factors to be fulfilled within the first three months are:

• Provide assessment of economic strengths and weaknesses of the town.

• Conduct roundtable meetings with business owners, real estate professionals and other stakeholders.

• Develop strategy for integrating and leveraging broader regional and State Economic Development entities.

• Develop and maintain a database of town and area businesses categorized by industry.

The continuing longer-term success factors include:

• Receive positive feedback from stakeholders and business owners.

• Develop a five-year economic development plan to include a business retention plan, tourism, marketing plan to target industries and companies, partnership with local educational institutions, economic diversification and tax base management.

• Actively participate in the revisions to the Land Use Plan and Land Development Code to maximize business opportunities and linkages in the Comprehensive Master Plan to economic development.

• Create a Small Business/Entrepreneur Resource Center.

• Help create Cornelius Economic Development Advisory Council.

• Create a positive trend of business recruitment, retention and expansion.

• Establish a number of business expansions, retentions and relocations.