Mayor pro tem choice splits Charlotte City Council Democrats

sharrison@charlotteobserver.comDecember 2, 2013 

Patrick Cannon is scheduled to be sworn in as Charlotte mayor Monday night and is expected to give a speech outlining his vision for the next two years.

But a new City Council is also scheduled to select the next mayor pro tem – a largely ceremonial title that has often gone to the at-large candidate who received the most votes.

That would be Democrat Michael Barnes, who finished the general election in first with 54,836 votes. That is 1,109 more than the second-place finisher, Vi Lyles, and also 3,706 more votes than Cannon received in defeating Republican Edwin Peacock.

But it’s unclear whether council members will line up behind Barnes – or whether old feuds will continue.

In mid-November, a Charlotte resident emailed District 3 council member LaWana Mayfield, who had just been re-elected. The resident asked that Barnes be named mayor pro tem.

Mayfield, a Democrat who is not an ally of Barnes, responded that council members didn’t have to give the job to the council member who received the most votes.

“This position is selected by the council peers in support of the person whom WE feel will BEST represent the city of Charlotte when the mayor is unavailable,” Mayfield wrote.

Mayfield later wrote that she is not a fan of “‘well! That’s how we’ve always done it,’ that is MY definition of insanity.”

A day later, Barnes replied to Mayfield and other council members: “Lawana, Please stop sending these e-mails. You’re embarrassing the city and the City Council.”

Barnes and Mayfield were on opposing sides of several issues in the past two years, including whether to extend the streetcar 2.5 miles.

Barnes sometimes voted in a coalition that included Cannon, Claire Fallon, Beth Pickering and the council’s two Republicans, Andy Dulin and Warren Cooksey.

Mayfield’s group included Patsy Kinsey, the current mayor who is returning to her District 1 seat; John Autry; James Mitchell; and David Howard.

But there will be a massive shakeup at Monday’s oath ceremony.

Pickering, Cooksey, Dulin and Mitchell are leaving the council. Cannon will become mayor.

The new members will be Republicans Kenny Smith and Ed Driggs, and Democrats Vi Lyles, Al Austin and Greg Phipps.

Despite the back-and-forth emails, Barnes said in a recent interview, he wants the job of mayor pro tem and expects he will have the backing of his colleagues.

Howard, who finished third in at-large voting, said he isn’t certain how he will vote if Barnes is nominated for mayor pro tem.

“I intend to have conversations with my colleagues between now and then, and we’ll see,” Howard said.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

The Lake Wylie Pilot is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service