Monday, May 20, 2013

Mayorial memories

On May 21, the Observer is hosting a public forum featuring five former Charlotte mayors: Gov. Pat McCrory, Richard Vinroot, Rep. Sue Myrick, Harvey Gantt and Eddie Knox. (Mayor Foxx will be in Washington, D.C. preparing for his Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. transportation secretary, but word is he may participate via video.)

The historic event is free and open to the public, but you must register in advance.  It starts at 7 p.m. at Central Piedmont Community College's Dale F. Halton Theater in the Overcash Building, 1206 Elizabeth Ave. The moderator is Steve Crump. Audience members will be allowed to ask questions. For information, or to register, go to 

Harvey Gantt was mayor when I moved to Charlotte. When he had just left office and Sue Myrick was elected mayor, one of my best friends lived in a house in Fourth Ward that was right between the former and current mayors. I was over there all the time - we were young and fun and it was the place to hang out. Having Sue Myrick, a Republican, on one side, and Harvey Gantt, a Democrat, on the other, made it even cooler.  We kept expecting some political blow out, but that never happened. That was my first observation that Charlotteans, even though we may disagree, we put a high value on being at the very least cordial to one another. 

When Richard Vinroot was mayor, I went to a movie at the Manor with the same friend who lived between Myrick and Gantt. Mayor Vinroot was sitting alone in a seat at the end of the aisle so he could stretch out his long legs. I think he must have seen us whispering with excitement that we were at the movie with the mayor and he struck up a brief conversation with us. He was so easy going and friendly, and he treated us as if we were important. It made a huge impression on me that a mayor would take the time to genuinely interact with us. It's a feeling I remember to this day every time I'm lucky enough to see him out. Little things really do mean a lot. 

During "Mayor Pat's" many years in office, I would see him out at countless events. He was always so much fun - especially when he would take over any available drum set and start playing at parties. How many elected officials do you know that have that kind of joie de vivre?

When it comes to Mayor Foxx, you may love his politics or hate them, but anyone who's been around him knows he's a nice man with a quick smile and outgoing personality.

My biggest fear about Charlotte is that we're allowing cordial relations among our elected leaders and us as citizens to slip away. We have a long history of working together in this town and of being friendly to one another no matter what. That quality is one of the unspoken reasons people and businesses flock here. It's an invisible thread that holds everything together and without it we're nothing special no matter how many new skyscrapers or coliseums we have.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson