Catching up with Kim Phillips
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Former mayor Kim Phillips remembers this initial impression about what would become her adopted hometown: “It was tiny,” she said. “Tiny.”
It didn’t stay that way. In the years since Phillips moved here from Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband, Bruce, and infant daughter, Chelsea, Huntersville’s population has increased nearly 20-fold.
Phillips had as big a role managing that growth and forming the vision of what Huntersville would become as anybody –not that she anticipated it when she arrived.
At the time – 1989 – Huntersville consisted of about 2,500 residents, a single grocery store, and lots of farmland. Perhaps the only harbinger was a subdivision under construction just outside of Huntersville’s borders.
“We were one of the first five home buyers in Wynfield,” Phillips said.
The Phillipses had initially looked for homes in south Charlotte, but this was the year Hurricane Hugo had devastated the Carolinas, bringing down trees, tearing off roofs, and leaving some in Charlotte without power for more than two weeks. Huntersville, with so much less to damage, weathered the storm much better.
Phillips won a seat on the Huntersville Town Board of Commissioners four years after she arrived. She served from 1993 to 1999. After taking a term off, she was elected mayor in 2001, serving three terms before deciding not to seek re-election in 2007.
Huntersville underwent explosive growth during Phillips’ tenure. Her lasting legacy may be her ability to look years down the road and prepare for growth. While many towns around Charlotte were scrambling to react to rapid growth, Huntersville was adopting a zoning ordinance and master plan that gave the town more control over development.
Drawing on her background in finance and marketing, she was an important early advocate of the pro-economic growth policies that have helped Huntersville attain a perfect AAA bond rating and led to Forbes Magazine ranking Huntersville second in a 2009 story about America’s Best Places to Move.
Her family moved to Indianapolis three years ago, but that stay may be temporary.
“We’ll be back,” Phillips said. “We’re just not sure when.”
During their 20 years in the Lake Norman area, the Phillips family underwent some fairly dramatic growth of its own, with Kim Phillips giving birth to two more children, sons Nick and Parker. Chelsea finished high school in Huntersville and went onto college at Chapel Hill, but when Bruce Phillips was transferred by his company in 2009, the rest of the family was bound for Indy.
“We loved North Carolina. We did not want to leave,” Phillips said. “It was especially tough on Nick. He was a junior in high school and went from being one of the most popular kids in his class to knowing no one at his new school.”
She said the experience ended up helping Nick prepare for college. Now a freshman at Butler University, he had a relatively easy time making the adjustment.
“It was a piece of cake for him to make friends (at Butler),” she said. “He had already gone through a trial by fire.”
Rather than put her son, Parker, who is in eighth grade, through that same trial, Phillips says the plan is to let him finish high school in Indianapolis before she and Bruce return to the area.
But return they will.