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Decision 2010: Board of Commissioners District 4 race

The candidates for the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners District 4 race are, from left, Dumont Clarke and Virginia Spykerman.

(Editor’s note: The following is part of The Mecklenburg Times’ coverage of the Nov. 2 elections.)

Dumont Clarke

Age: 58

Hometown: Bat Cave, N.C.

Family: Wife: Shirley Linn; children: Elizabeth, 25, Deborah, 23

Education: Bachelor’s degree in history from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; juris doctor degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law

Political affiliation: Democrat

Dumont Clarke was born in a small, 12-bed hospital about 120 miles west of Charlotte in Bat Cave, N.C. His journey to Charlotte took him through New York before he settled in the Queen City in 1982.

“I grew up not in Charlotte, but I grew up on the Charlotte Highway,” he said. “So, I was sort of connected to Charlotte.”

Clarke attended Vassar College in New York, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1974. He returned to North Carolina to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of law, graduating in 1978.

From 1978-79, Clarke was a clerk for the North Carolina Court of Appeals and North Carolina Supreme Court.

He went to New York City to gain experience as an attorney before returning to North Carolina in 1982, when he began working as an attorney with Moore and Van Allen law firm in Charlotte. He has been there ever since, with the exception of a brief break when he served as assistant professor of business law at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

His law practice has a concentration in corporate governance, securities regulation and corporate and municipal finance.

He was first elected to the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners in 2000 and is finishing up his fifth term.

He said he is seeking re-election because serving on the board is his way of giving back to the community.

Clarke, who sits on the board’s audit review committee, said his experience on the board and as a corporate attorney — a job that requires him to be cautious — qualifies him to be a commissioner.

What are the top needs and/or problems you plan to address if elected?

Clarke said transportation needs and better code enforcement are concerns for District 4 residents.

Other concerns, he said, are public safety and making sure the county has an effective criminal justice system.

Clarke, who chairs the board’s criminal justice committee, said the board, despite playing only a coordinating role in criminal justice because the state runs the court system, is committed to making the criminal justice system more effective and efficient.

“We are making good progress primarily by providing supplementary funding to the district attorney’s office, which we are not required to do,” he said.

By the end of your term, what major accomplishments do you hope to have achieved?

A drop in sales tax revenue during the past two years has resulted in cuts in county funding, Clarke said.

He wants to restore some of the cuts made to the Park and Recreation Department and boost funding to the libraries.

“I think we have stabilized the budget situation,” he said. “What I mean is I think it’s very unlikely that we will find ourselves in the middle of this fiscal year having to make budget cuts, which I think we had to do in both of the last two years because of the Great Recession.”

He would also like the commission to increase its financial support of the public school system.

“It’s going to be really difficult because our tax base has essentially stopped growing,” he said.

Clarke wants to give county employees a raise during his next term. They have not had a pay increase in two years, and the county has stopped matching 401(k) contributions and lowered the amount it pays toward health benefits.

Virginia Spykerman

Age: 42

Hometown: Highpoint, N.C.

Family: Husband: Mark; children: Wes, 5, Liam, 4, Kristin, 3

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Political affiliation: Republican

This year’s county budget cuts because of miscalculated sales tax revenue made Virginia Spykerman realize that her background in investment banking is needed on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners.

Indeed, Spykerman has held powerful positions for major players in the financial sector.

Following college, she was hired by Goldman Sachs as an analyst in New York City and London. After six years, she was promoted to associate and traveled to Tokyo and Hong Kong, where she headed the treasury department of the company’s Asian division.

Following her 30th birthday, she returned to the Carolinas to be near her family and decided to take the opportunity to pursue her dream of acting. That decision landed her with the A.D. Players theater group in Houston from 2000 to 2001. After appearing in some shows, she decided acting wasn’t enjoyable as a full-time job, so she returned to Charlotte.

Following the move, she took a position with Wachovia in its treasury department and met and married her husband, Mark. They have three children.

Spykerman, who lives in the Dilworth neighborhood, is a stay-at-home mom, but she plans to return to work after her youngest child begins school in two years.

She said she decided to run for office after voting in several elections for candidates who had no opposition.

What are the top needs and/or problems you plan to address if elected?

Spykerman said District 4’s needs are in the areas of public safety, job creation and education. She wants to use her background in finance to ensure that schools and libraries are funded properly so that county officials do not have to ask for money back like they did this year following lower-than-expected sales tax revenue.

She also wants to lure companies to the county and create jobs.

“As I tell my voters, my interests are very aligned with yours,” Spykerman said.

One of those interests is the quality of, and funding for, the county’s public schools, where she said her children will be for the next 15 years.

She also wants to make sure Dilworth is safe.

By the end of your term, what major accomplishments do you hope to have achieved?

Spykerman said she plans to bring common sense to the county’s budgeting process. For one, the budget needs to be planned at least one year out, she said. Also, she wants to consult with groups that receive county funding to identify possible cost-saving measures. One example would be to consolidate East Mecklenburg High School’s library with the Independence public library branch, which sits across the road, she said.

Tara Ramsey can be reached at tara.ramsey@mecktimes.com.

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