9 Charlotte newsmakers to watch in 2019

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The past year offered no shortage of headlines. Charlotte’s government and business leaders spent hours discussing affordable housing, e-scooters took over city streets, a hedge fund mogul bought the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte landed the 2020 Republican National Convention and a blue wave crashed over the midterm elections.

In 2019, several major civic initiatives will reach pivotal inflection points, a new corporate HQ will take root and we’ll elect a mayor and City Council come November. Here are 9 newsmakers to keep an eye on.

Vi Lyles

Charlotte’s first-term mayor is fresh off a major victory, voter approval of a $50 million affordable housing bond. In 2019, the pressure will be on for her to make effective use of that money and vote of public confidence. Though two years ago the sentiment was that Lyles would have the mayor’s gavel for as long as she wanted it, there are now already rumblings that she’ll face a primary challenge from the left. Charlotte politicos will be watching for Lyles to go on the offensive, backing a slate of candidates with similar agendas — including well-funded Democrats in Charlotte’s two remaining Republican districts.

Mayor Vi Lyles

Darius Adamczyk

The CEO of Honeywell immediately became Charlotte’s newest corporate titan when he announced his company would leave New Jersey for fresh digs Uptown. Adamczyk has pledged that Honeywell won’t just work here, but become a community staple. That’s potentially a boon for local nonprofits.

Taiwo Jaiyeoba

Charlotte’s planning director has recently rolled out a plan to completely redefine Charlotte’s vision for its growth over the next two decades. Some big decisions will come in 2019, including the selection of growth projections for the coming decades. However, Jaiyeoba won’t just be in the limelight for the 2040 plan. While the city’s development boom appears to be moderating, he’ll be called on to guide the scores of cranes up in Charlotte at the moment.

Taiwo “Tai” Jaiyeoba. Photo by City of Charlotte.

John Lewis

The Charlotte Area Transit System CEO hasn’t been shy about sharing big plans, and 2019 is likely to be a pivotal year for them. CATS will be making big decisions about whether and how to pursue multiple new light rail lines across the city, including west to the airport and north toward Lake Norman. His department is also rapidly modernizing transit technology and completely overhauling the city’s bus system — so there’s plenty to keep him busy.

Mark Harris

The former Charlotte pastor appeared to squeak out a victory to become a U.S. Congressman, but the election has suddenly been called into question after allegations of election fraud by operatives in Bladen County. How Harris handles the investigation will play a major role in how Charlotte and North Carolina in general are perceived across the country. We can be either a shining example of ethics, or receive a massive black eye.

Mark Harris

Jesse Cureton

The Novant Health executive will be taking over the reins at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, the city’s biggest economic development organization created by the melding of the Charlotte Chamber and the Charlotte Regional Partnership. In selecting a full-time CEO for the job, Cureton will be setting a tone for a business organization that’s losing its grasp on the levers of power in Charlotte as the city grows.

David Tepper

The Carolina Panthers’ new owner has quickly become a Charlotte favorite for his dance moves and candid way of speaking. In 2019, expect him to make his first major ask of the city’s taxpayers. Tepper will likely be deciding where to create a new practice facility, which could spur development in an area that needs it. He’ll also have to figure out what’s to be done with Bank of America Stadium, a key civic asset.

David Tepper. Photo via Carnegie Mellon University

George Dunlap

The brand-new chairman of the Mecklenbug Board of County Commissioners now has ownership of a process that touches every property owner in Charlotte — the real estate revaluation. Last time Mecklenburg did this, they massively messed it up, ticking off homeowners countywide. Dunlap will guide the board in deciding whether to impose a massive tax increase in Mecklenburg County, and then where to invest that money.

Kemba Walker

The Charlotte Hornets all-star guard has reached a new level this season, with a blazing hot start that’s vaulted him into the league MVP discussion. It also happens to be a contract year: Walker will be a free agent in 2019, with the ability to command a max salary nearly anywhere he’d like to go. While he’s not as widely recognized as Cam Newton, he’s just as talented — and he’s the beating heart of Charlotte’s sports scene.

Image courtesy of the Hornets

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Andrew Dunn
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