CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In April, Charlotte will have a new city manager, replacing longtime city employee Curt Walton, who served as city manager from 2007 until his retirement in December. His replacement, former Arlington County, Va., manager Ron Carlee, the first outside candidate to hold the post in 30 years, is a staunchly progressive ally, says one Virginia politician who worked with Carlee.
“You guys are really fortunate. Ron is fabulous. He’s an outstanding public servant,” said Arlington County, Va., Vice Chair Jay Fisette, who in 1997 became the first openly LGBT person elected to any office in Virginia. “I read the position description that was put out by the city, what they were looking for, and it’s like it was tailored to him. If it’s true what they’re looking for and what they want to create in Charlotte and build on whatever they have, he’s just a perfect candidate for you guys.”
Fisette had served as the county board’s chair when Carlee was hired there in 2001.
Carlee’s work in Arlington was marked by a commitment and openness to LGBT issues, Fisette said.
“In terms of gay issues, it’s a non-issue,” Fisette said. “He will embrace and completely respect the gay and lesbian community in Charlotte.”
On other matters, too, Carlee was an ally. In particular, Carlee was instrumental in helping Arlington County navigate controversial immigration proposals during his tenure.
“Issues of immigration were huge between two and four years ago,” Fisette said. “Republicans in Richmond must have put forward over 100 bills in the legislature to rescind the rights of foreign born residents. Our community and our board leadership made some very strong public statements about the rights of immigrants and the police chief and others in the community were trying to assuage some of the anxiety. Ron played a very strong leadership role in ensuring we all handled that well and the staff of 3,600 people who work for this county were all on the same page in terms of sending that same message.”
Fisette said Carlee spoke at several community and regional forms. “He very strongly defended and explained why the county felt as it did and why he felt as he did,” Fisette said.
Diversity was a key ingredient in Arlington’s community values — a standard Carlee not only respected, but helped promote.
“It’s part of our mantra here,” Fisette said. “Our value system is to tap into these differences as a source of community strength and not to allow it to be a divisive element.”
Ultimately, Fisette believes Carlee will be a net-positive for the Queen City.
“It sounds like your council is at a place where they are really ready to keep building on the progress they’ve been making,” Fisette said. : :