Now more than ever we need people who put service above self. We need people whose heart is driven by servant leadership. My actions and intent is to be thoughtful, pragmatic and respectful of all, especially those with different opinions. For me serving is more community service, rather than just public service. My hope is to be a voice of reason in the often chaos of legislative noise. My expectation is to be open, transparent, listening, engaging and there to help you navigate the bureaucracy of state government when I can.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
Current: State Senator, President’s Advisory Counsel CPCC, NC Council for Deaf & Hard of Hearing, NC Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control, Board of Directors Zennergy, Chair Senate IT Committee, Chair State & Local Government Committee, member Education, Healthcare, and Appropriations Committees, Chair NCGA Technology Caucus, President’s Council University of Illinois
Past: Mayor Cornelius, Mecklenburg County Parks & Rec Commissioner, Cornelius Parks & Rec Board Chair, Metropolitan Transit Commission, Athletic Director Youth Baseball Cornelius & Davidson, School Leadership Team CMS middle school, IBM, Ernst & Young Partner, ARA CEO, Johns Hopkins Health System CIO, Tufts New England Medical Center CIO
Top 10 most effective Senators, NC Chamber of Commerce Top Pro-business Legislator, NC Sustainable Energy Legislator of the Year, Top Freshman Senate Legislator, NC Sheriff’s Defender of Liberty, Medical Society Patients Rights Advocate, Big Brother Big Sister Commander, Westmoreland Athletic Complex baseball field named in my honor
- Raised teacher and principal compensation
- Reduced and flattened personal and corporate income tax rates
- Fixed Mecklenburg Superior and District court districts
- Provided funds for local Fire and Police
- Created University Student Athlete Commission
- Provided resources to pursue people who perpetrate insurance and tax fraud
- Authorized study of placing nurses in all NC K-12 public schools
- Mapped a structure of emergency management to enhance school safety
- Provided options to towns to fund municipal charter schools
- Created charter school for high school dropouts
- Provided for reciprocal privileges for out of state school psychologists moving to NC
- Expanded services and protections for foster children
- Implementing study recommendations to gain operating efficiency in DOA
- Funded implementation and oversight of new state financial systems (ERP)
- Funded selection and installation of new contract management system
- Implemented new Real Estate Management and GIS system
- Established regulations for virtual currency
- Ensured proper tax status for direct sellers at firms like Avon, Mary Kay, ACN
- Implemented program to manage hydrilla in Lake Norman and statewide lakes
- Saved riparian buffers on Catawba River system and chain of lakes
- Enabled background checks for all state employees from Temp Solutions
- Implemented program to certify HAVA funds to certify voting machines
- Consolidated Department of Information Technology
- Enabled LLC companies to file online tax returns
- Reorganized and reduced cost of state vehicle fleet
- Provided funding for Bridges out of Poverty program
- Secured funding for Housing Finance Administration
- Provided funding for mentoring of at risk children
- Authored stricter penalties for child abusers
- Authored bi-annual independent financial audits of 5 largest state agencies
- Authored fix to property revaluation in Mecklenburg County
What are your top 3 legislative priorities for the next 2 years?
- Protect you and save lives
- Make NC highest cancer survival – screening, oral chemo & co-pay change
- Address distracted driving – statewide initiative underway
- Improve school safety & end EOGs – school psychologists, counselors, nurses
- Implement Direct Primary Care & execute contract changes to I77 toll lanes
- Save taxpayer money
- Reduce utility bills and space utilization in state buildings – $80M per year
- Eliminate fraud & collect taxes – insurance, tax & Medicaid – $300M per year
- Improve IT management – cybersecurity, contract mgt, ERP – $20M per year
- Update Machinery Act – methodology for property tax valuation process
- Create jobs through education – NC recognized as most technology advanced state
- Link employer driven curriculum in community colleges
- Stand up cybersecurity and technology curriculum
- Explore trade charters & expand trade programs in traditional publics
- Direct recruitment of desired businesses – restructure JDIG and One NC
How would you rate the quality of public education in NC currently?
Public education is tiered into three categories: PreK, K through 12, and post secondary. I am the only legislator, that I am aware, who has been to all 17 campuses of the UNC system to officially meet with each Chancellor. Unequivocally the UNC System is NC’s greatest asset and economic engine. It is also our best lever to help bridge kids out of poverty. I have close relationships with Margaret Spellings, President of the UNC System and Peter Hans, President of the 58 community college system. Continued commitment to these institutions will be the driver to job creation.
PreK has to be a focal point and concentration of investment. PreK is linked to future educational success. To date we have fully funded the wait list of NC children wishing to enroll in PreK programs. NC needs to be a national leader in PreK opportunities.
We need a 10-year comprehensive compensation plan for our K through 12 educators. Retention and how we demonstrate respect for our teachers needs to be immediately addressed. We need to terminate End-of-Grade (EOG) testing as currently deployed. The EOG process disrespects teachers and is developmentally harmful to students. We are over testing our students and minimizing classroom instruction. This ratio of testing to instruction needs to be inverted. We need to empower teachers to teach.
What accountability should be required of schools receiving public funding?
Absolute, thorough and transparent accountability must exist with ANY school receiving taxpayer funds. They should be required to submit to annual independent performance, operational and financial audits coordinated through the State Auditor’s office.
What do you propose to enhance job creation in NC?
We need targeted development and deployment of specific curriculum in our schools. Additional focus needs to be on the trades as well as on technology related subjects to fill immediate job needs in the market. We need to explore trade charters and be prepared to expand trade programs in traditional publics. In collaboration with the state and area employers, we need an array of comprehensive internships and apprenticeships to give our students competitive advantage with recruiters. The high school programs need to be linked to employer driven curriculum in community colleges, much like the program between CPCC and Siemens. We can stand-up cybersecurity and technology curricula such as R, python, SAS, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and blockchain. These will be needed to address the shortage of skilled professionals to fill the 3 million open positions forecasted in 2020.
How do you rate environmental quality? Air, water, and land
As part of the group Conservatives for Clean Energy, I recognize being good stewards of our natural resources is mandatory. I have been the leading advocate in the Senate for solar and wind alternatives. I am the NC Sustainable Energy Senator of the Year. I will be attending and representing NC at the national clean energy conference in Colorado later this year. NC now ranks among the top states in the use of solar energy. I led three critical initiatives to protect our waters and specifically the entire Catawba River system. First was ensuring that the riparian buffers remained in force after being threatened. Second was writing the legislation to fund a statewide and permanent solution to prophylactically manage the infestation of hydrilla across the entire lake system in NC, which is especially problematic on Lake Norman. Without this funding and program our drinking water and recreational uses would be at risk. Last, I continue lobbying for increased funding to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
As a past municipal as well as county park commissioner I understand the importance of preserving and protecting our open spaces and natural areas. In Mecklenburg County the loss of pervious space is at catastrophic levels. 75% of the entire county is impervious, and unbridled development could encroach on our parks and open areas. I am a massive supporter of PARTF grants that stimulate the acquisition and use of parks and recreational areas through partnership with our counties and towns. We need to be diligent to long term strategies and coordination between state and local governmental bodies in conjunction with responsible development to protect this valuable natural resource.
NC DEQ is the agency responsible for enforcing our air quality standards. We need to remain engaged and active in air quality monitoring. This is especially critical in our urban areas around the state. Protection is significantly easier and less expensive than remediating problems after the fact.
Last, I appreciate the balance that is required to ensure our natural resources remain vibrant for generations into the future, while enabling our businesses to thrive and flourish. We do amazing work for the citizens of this region by collaborating with DEQ, NC Wildlife Resources, Lake Norman Marine Commission, County Board, the 7 town boards plus the major players who affect air, water, and land quality in Mecklenburg County including Charlotte Water and Duke Energy. I have outstanding relationships with leadership at all of these entities. I have been the facilitator of solutions to protect our air, land, and water among these organizations.
What is best way to handle the redistricting process in 2021?
Redistricting is a legislative responsibility. The public generally despises radical gerrymandering. Redistricting has become contentious and blatantly partisan. The Voter Rights Act of 1965 is the impetus for the federal government to require gerrymandering in our states. Absolute elimination of gerrymandering would likely violate federal law. Some suggest we use computer programs to get independent solutions. Know that all redistricting efforts are dependent on the use of redistricting software. It is impossible to do this work without computers.
Our greatest challenges are getting the majority party to acquiesce to giving up this prerogative, and finding a solution that removes real and perceived bias from the process. So the real question is, can redistricting ever be fair? Let me point you to that good article “Can Redistricting Ever Be Fair?” by Alan Greenblatt published in Governing magazine on October 31, 2011. I do not have the answer, but I am open to listening to good ideas.
How do you rate NC cyber and public works infrastructure?
As Chair of the IT Joint Oversight Committee (JOC), cybersecurity is my top priority. I am one of the very few legislators with deep understanding and knowledge of information technology from having worked at IBM and as a Health Care Technology Partner at Ernst & Young. If I leave the legislature now, we leave a dangerous void.
In my role as Chair of the IT JOC and NCGA Tech Caucus, I am constantly engaged and in the middle of technology issues impacting our state. I am responsible for oversight of a nearly $2B annual IT spend across the state. Historically we have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in inappropriate management of statewide technology.
Various state computer systems are being hacked multiple times per day. The Secretary of the Department of Information Technology, Eric Boyette, and the State Chief Security Officer, Maria Thompson, are in regular dialog with me about these threats. We have agencies like the Department of Revenue, who recently invested over $4M to bring its cyber hygiene into conformity and compliance. We have other agencies that cannot pass security audits. We have our challenges.
I am active nationally with the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Centers for Academic Excellence (CAE), addressing how we develop individuals with cyber skills for our gig economy. This finds me in frequent communication with a number of universities and community colleges as we craft solutions to meet this demand.
Public Works Infrastructure:
Infrastructure is top of mind with most residents in Mecklenburg County. Traffic congestion has to be our region’s top transportation priority. If we do not solve this problem, we will eventually create economic deserts in various parts of the region.
Demand for additional and widened roads far exceeds funding ability. We need to develop a new funding model for major transportation projects. I have the foundation for such a methodology that I filed as proposed legislation 4 years ago.
I am in regular communications with Charlotte Water, Aqua America, ElectriCities, Energy United and Duke Energy among others working on a myriad of public works related issues impacting our residents. I am continuously helping constituents navigate their concerns and issues through these regulated public companies. I have proposed legislation that would require Duke Energy to recycle all coal ash. I am happy to meet with folks to help them understand in greater depth the issues that we regularly navigate on behalf of NC citizens.