Charlotte Council chooses Billy Maddalon for District 1 seat

Maddalon sworn into office; Council now has two openly gay members

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: July 23, 2013 in News

Originally published: July 22, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Updated: July 23, 2013, 3:33 p.m.

Billy Maddalon was appointed, 7-3, to fill a vacant seat on Charlotte City Council.

Billy Maddalon was appointed, 7-3, to fill a vacant seat on Charlotte City Council.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte City Council voted 7-3 on Monday to appoint business owner Billy Maddalon to fill current Mayor Patsy Kinsey’s vacated District 1 seat.

“There’s a lot to be done,” Maddalon told press after the vote. “The shop’s on fire. There’s just so many really important issues in front of our community. My goal would be to get up to speed as quickly as possible and become a contributor on City Council in the short four months I’ll have to do that.”

Maddalon, 46, is the owner of the Morehead Inn and the VanLandingham Estate. He was among 11 citizens who had filed to replace Kinsey, who was herself appointed to fulfill the unexpired term of former Mayor Anthony Foxx. He left Charlotte on July 1 after being confirmed as the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Kinsey, Maddalon said, has served District 1 well. After her temporary stint as mayor, Kinsey has said she will run for her district seat again in the fall. Maddalon won’t be running against her and hopes to rely on her experience through the rest of the year.

“I will trust her counsel,” he said. “She’s always been a mentor and a counselor to me in my business and a number of other issues in our community, gay and lesbian issues particularly. I think I’ll rely on Patsy Kinsey’s advice to the extent that she’ll offer it to me.”

Maddalon, who is openly gay, was joined by another openly gay candidate for the appointment. Maddalon becomes the second openly gay or lesbian person to serve on Charlotte City Council. The first, incumbent District 3 Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, was elected in 2011.

His appointment is a sign of progressive movement by the city, said Maddalon, who will now represent a district with some of the most heavily LGBT-populated neighborhoods in the city.

“Sometimes government is behind its people,” he said. “The people of Charlotte are so far beyond that. Council demonstrated tonight that it is a non-issue to them.”

Maddalon said other more pressing issues were facing the city, including unemployment, economic development challenges in the East, West and Northeast Corridor, homelessness and affordable housing.

“All those issues are very real and then you start talking about gay and lesbian issues and it just doesn’t seem relevant anymore because we’re just a regular, normal part of the community,” Maddalon said. “I think Council thinks that now, gladly, as much as our community does.”

Maddalon said he was transparent throughout the appointment process and never hid his sexual orientation.

“I received nothing but thumbs up, including from the two Republicans [on Council],” said Maddalon, who also said two current Council members had approached him earlier about the appointment.

Maddalon, who was sworn into office on Tuesday morning, comes onto Council in the midst of a continuing fight over ownership of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. He said he supports the actions of Council to protect the city’s interests.

“I am very supportive of the Council’s move to protect our airport, which is an asset to the people of this community,” he said. “I don’t think this is a ‘Who’s right?’ I think this is a ‘What’s right?’ And, if [the state legislature] can take our airport then they can go to any city in North Carolina, particularly the smaller communities that don’t have the resources that Charlotte has, and take their assets away from them, and I don’t think that’s fair or equitable and I don’t think that’s how the American process is supposed to work. So, I will be supporting what the unanimous majority on Council have already started.”

A formal and public swearing-in ceremony is planned for Monday, July 29.

Maddalon was nominated by Republican Councilmember Warren Cooksey (District 7), who said he once served with Maddalon on the board of the Charlotte Convention and Visitors Bureau. Cooksey praised Maddalon’s experience as a small business owner and his experience with historic renovation.

“His connection with the VanLandingham Estate and the Morehead Inn…covers, I think, in action, the breadth of a lot of what this Council does, some of which I obviously disagree with,” Cooksey said during the meeting, “but that’s not going to stand in my way of acknowledging that a guy who has been through that sort of process also brings a good deal of expertise for four-and-a-half months to help this Council.”

Democratic Councilmember John Autry (District 5) also supported Maddalon’s nomination.

“I, too, was going to nominate Mr. Maddalon,” Autry said after Cooksey. “The experience I’ve had working with him in the East over the last couple of years has been very rewarding and it has been great to get to know him and I just have a real appreciation for his commitment to the City of Charlotte.”

In addition to his service as a business owner, Maddalon currently serves as co-chair of Charlotte EAST, a group that has been pushing for renewed development and attention on the Charlotte’s Eastside.

He said in an earlier interview with qnotes that he has a desire to serve his communities and see to their improvement.

“I’m very aware there are lots of opportunities to make a difference in our community,” said Maddalon. “I can’t say elected office was ever something I necessarily saw myself doing. … This is a unique opportunity for me.”

Maddalon said that renewed focus on East Charlotte development is key.

“I would say in recent history the city has been underwhelming in the way it has handled Eastland,” he said. “There were numerous opportunities to keep what happened at Eastland from happening, in my opinion, which is to say total collapse.”

Maddalon, who also supported the controversial East-West Gold Line streetcar extension, also thinks city officials are on a better path to development in East Charlotte.

“Ultimately the city did the right thing,” Maddalon said. “Now the city is doing great work.”

Maddalon lives in Plaza Midwood with his spouse, Brooks, and their two school-aged sons.

James Hildreth, 23, a senior political science major at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, was the second openly gay candidate up for consideration for the appointment.

“I think that [Maddalon] is well-deserving of the position,” Hildreth said after the vote.

Other qualified candidates for Kinsey’s replacement included Arturo Cardenas; Jenifer R. Daniels; Larken Egleston; Alex Heroy; Terry Lansdell; Hollis Nixon; Larry Springs; Nathan Taylor; and James Lee Walker.

Daniels, Egleston, Heroy and Hollis each received nominations from various Council members.

In the final vote, Maddalon received 7 votes from Councilmembers Autry, Cooksey, Republican Andy Dulin and Democrats David Howard, Mayfield, Mitchell and Pickering. Democrats Michael Barnes, Patrick Cannon and Claire Fallon voted for Heroy, a civil litigation attorney with James, McElroy & Diehl, P.A., who also serves as treasurer of the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association.