Candidates for the Town of Cornelius

Get ready for Election Day and meet the candidates running for office.

Each candidate was provided a questionnaire to complete and share their position on arts and culture. Below are the responses we received.

Things to know before you go vote

Denis Bilodeau

2017 Candidate for Town of Cornelius Board of Commissioners

Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts), science or history while growing up and its impact on you.

As a child and through high school , I was a member of a band ( drummer) and it help me feel connected with classmates and the public in general. Performing in front of ( small) crowds helped me feel comfortable making presentations throughout my business career.

What’s your vision for the town? What role, if any, does art, science and history play in advancing that vision?

Downtown Cornelius ( Old Town) is developing a vibrancy centered on its appreciation for the arts. The new Cornelius Art Center will enhance the arts movement which began several years ago . Local residents have an affinity for crafts, good music and the fellowship of street festivals such as Tawba Walk and Second Friday. The rising arts “district” will be the economic catalyst for the east side or Old Town Cornelius.

Do you support public funding of arts, science, history, and heritage programs by your town through funding of ASC? Please explain.

Yes, I do support a reasonable amount of town participation in the funding of the Arts and ASC. Based on history of participation, I expect that Cornelius will continue to be a leader in bringing programs that are desired by our citizens.

A key finding in past cultural plans was the need for facilities outside of downtown Charlotte to support cultural programming and community events and programs. Would you support the continued partnership between the public and private sectors in addressing these needs and the use of public funds to support capital projects?

Yes, the new Cornelius Arts Center will do just that. Cornelius voters supported a bond package that included funds for our new Center and based on public feedback , I would support a continued partnership.

National research shows that the arts and cultural sector contributes to quality of life and economic stability. What strategies would you pursue to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy in our region?

I will engage with town staff to continue its work developing an Arts District in Old Town Cornelius. We are already experiencing an increased interest in new business development in East Cornelius and I would pursue additional businesses that fit well with the Arts Movement. I would give encouragement to grass roots organizations that support the arts and look for ways to ensure diversity in our Town’s development. The overriding strategy would be to include the voice of our citizens ..creating a vibrant but quaint downtown arts district.

Ava Callender

2017 Candidate for Town of Cornelius Board of Commissioners

Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts), science or history while growing up and its impact on you.

Many of us remember kindergarten, marching in that circle and playing the triangle or wooden blocks! We paid attention to the teacher at the piano, we cooperated with one another, we appreciated the experience we created together. We little strangers bonded! Child or adult, whether we create or consume art, the power of art won’t be denied. Art provides us an opportunity to appreciate one another and the world we live in. So however we participate in the arts, let’s keep it up!

What’s your vision for the town? What role, if any, does art, science and history play in advancing that vision?

History has recently knocked on Cornelius’s front door. The Confederate monument was once again defaced. Dave Yochum brought a diverse group of us together. We learned about some of the perspectives that we have on history (our story?). Some thought that we lived in harmony during the days of Jim Crow. Some of us were astonished to hear that! All of us benefited from talking about it. My vision for Cornelius is one of wanting great things for one another and lifting each other up.
Walk through our parks, and appreciate nature. Take a tour of some of our historic neighborhoods and homes. We are creating an arts district right now! Cornelius will provide a great opportunity for all our residents to enjoy the art, science and history that makes for a very high quality of life.

Do you support public funding of arts, science, history, and heritage programs by your town through funding of ASC? Please explain.

Yes! I served on the North Mecklenburg Advisory Board of the ASC years ago. Together we planned for the day that an arts center would be built. 2019 will be the year that our collective vision opens those curtains! Just weeks ago, we enjoyed an ASC sponsored Cultural Feast. This was a sold out, all out great event. Cornelius is ready for more.

A key finding in past cultural plans was the need for facilities outside of downtown Charlotte to support cultural programming and community events and programs. Would you support the continued partnership between the public and private sectors in addressing these needs and the use of public funds to support capital projects?

Yes.

National research shows that the arts and cultural sector contributes to quality of life and economic stability. What strategies would you pursue to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy in our region?

Tiny Home Village:

My vision is for Cornelius to be the site of a tiny home – artists in residence village. Artists along with art lovers will live and work together. Visitors will visit studios and see artists creating. Visitors will view and purchase pieces at the village gallery. Visitors will enjoy the arts district, restaurants, parks, public art and other amenities we offer. Cornelius, and our region, will be a stop on tour guide lists of where to visit!

Alternative transportation:

  • Cornelius does not yet have the parking space for our future special events.  Shuttles will eliminate the hassle of finding a space. Shuttles also enhance community and encourage participation everyone regardless of physical ability.
  • Cornelius does not yet have the parking space for our future special events. Shuttles will eliminate the hassle of finding a space. Shuttles also enhance community and encourage participation everyone regardless of physical ability.
  • Extend express bus service to include weekend evenings and days.  This would be a comfortable, safe way for our regional neighbors to experience all of Cornelius (even our great beers and cocktails!)

Town Website:

All registered, tax paying Cornelius businesses should have the opportunity to shine on our Cornelius.org website. That includes art venues! Many out of towners go to the website to evaluate visiting or even relocating. Let’s give them more reasons to consider our vibrant town.

Dave Gilroy

2017 Candidate for Town of Cornelius Board of Commissioners

Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts), science or history while growing up and its impact on you.

Just 2 weeks ago I was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a wedding and had a Sunday afternoon to spend at MAM, the Milwaukee Art Museum. I was there for 4 hours and saw everything, but I really could have easily spent another full afternoon there. A truly world class experience!

What’s your vision for the town? What role, if any, does art, science and history play in advancing that vision?

Cornelius has stepped up and put our public funds where our mouth is on Arts & Culture. We advocated and passed a bond providing $4M to build a new Cornelius Arts Center. We then acquired the required land in the perfect location and hired a new Arts Director. We have set up a new 501(3)c to lead our private fundraising to fulfill our extraordinary vision for a regional attraction of true distinction!

Do you support public funding of arts, science, history, and heritage programs by your town through funding of ASC? Please explain.

Yes, and the proof is in the pudding in Cornelius…

A key finding in past cultural plans was the need for facilities outside of downtown Charlotte to support cultural programming and community events and programs. Would you support the continued partnership between the public and private sectors in addressing these needs and the use of public funds to support capital projects?

Yes, and our recent $4M commitment to a new Cornelius Arts Center speaks for itself

National research shows that the arts and cultural sector contributes to quality of life and economic stability. What strategies would you pursue to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy in our region?

We are focused on making our new Arts Center the nexus for a culturally dynamic “Old Town Cornelius” which supports a variety of arts, entertainment, special events, etc. – all in a beautiful, pedestrian friendly center of town and anchored by a spectacular Arts Center.

Kurt Naas

2017 Candidate for Town of Cornelius Board of Commissioners

Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts), science or history while growing up and its impact on you.

Two important things happened to me when I was nine: I found out I needed braces and I got it in my head I wanted to play the trumpet. Brass instruments and braces don’t mix, and given that uncertainty coupled with my Dad’s teacher’s salary, my parents were reluctant to spring for the horn.

After several months of pestering, one Saturday morning my mom says, “Let’s see what the music store has to say.” She explained the situation to the elderly gentlemen behind the counter. I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember he was so discouraging I left the store in tears.

So mom says, “Let’s try another store.” Similar conversation. I don’t remember what the young lady behind the counter said and I didn’t leave that second store in tears, but I didn’t leave with a trumpet, either.

So mom says, “Let’s try another store.” I still remember that clerk’s words: “The braces don’t matter. If he really wants to play the trumpet, he’ll play the trumpet.” Not totally convinced, mom decided to rent a horn.

She arranged weekly lessons, but I was so bad that after a few months my teacher stopped showing up. It took me a while to realize that he decided the pittance my parents paid him was not worth having to sit and listen to me try and play the trumpet for half an hour.

After talking with the music director of the local junior high, mom found a second teacher. He was a kindly, elderly gentleman, but I think my playing (or lack thereof) hastened his retirement: six months after I started he retired to live amongst the redwoods in Northern California.

He referred me to a third teacher. After several months of rudiments, one week the new teacher handed me a solo piece. The next week I staggered through it, warts and all, then waited for the feedback.

I still remember what he said: “You can put your feelings into the horn. We’ll work on tone and articulation and range and the other stuff, but you have what I can’t teach. Work with me and you’ll be a phenomenal trumpet player.”

Well, I’m not sure about the “phenomenal” part, but out of his 50 students I was the top one by the time I was a high school sophomore. While interests and pragmatism have taken my career in a different direction, I’ll forever cherish the hours I spent behind the horn, the music I made and the people I met.

So what impact did the arts (music) have on me?

Music taught me the lifelong impact of an encouraging word.

Music was an invaluable means to channel my interest and passion, make friends, meet new people and develop self-esteem.

Music was a vehicle by which my parents could show their love and support.

Music… made my life better.

What’s your vision for the town? What role, if any, does art, science and history play in advancing that vision?

My vision for downtown Cornelius is to have an Arts Center that is so vibrant it becomes a regional attraction; catalyzes redevelopment in the downtown Cornelius area; becomes a focal point for community events and ultimately improves our quality of life.

Do you support public funding of arts, science, history, and heritage programs by your town through funding of ASC? Please explain.

I support public funding of these programs to the extent they support the vision I outlined in the previous question.

I would not support public funding of the Arts as a means of de facto charity or if such funding has increasing employment as a primary goal.

A key finding in past cultural plans was the need for facilities outside of downtown Charlotte to support cultural programming and community events and programs. Would you support the continued partnership between the public and private sectors in addressing these needs and the use of public funds to support capital projects?

Yes, provided such partnerships are consistent with the vision outlined in question five and the policies outlined in question six.

National research shows that the arts and cultural sector contributes to quality of life and economic stability. What strategies would you pursue to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy in our region?

The main strategy in Cornelius is to ensure the proposed Arts Center fulfills its promise as a regional attraction, redevelopment catalyst and contributor to our quality of life by providing enriching and enjoyable experiences for people of differing interests, income levels and backgrounds.

William Rakatansky

2017 Candidate for Town of Cornelius Board of Commissioners

Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts), science or history while growing up and its impact on you.

In high school, my art teacher forever changed the course of my life for the better. First, he allowed me to create a 4 foot by 4 foot ceramic mosaic design that was selected to hang in the main lobby of my high school for many years. Second, he directed me into the profession that I am in currently…Architecture.

What’s your vision for the town? What role, if any, does art, science and history play in advancing that vision?

As a licensed practical oriented architect, I have a deep appreciation for the application of science in architecture, and making buildings safe through science, with design following the function of the building. History is crucial to understanding most every aspect of our lives, since someone has tried and either failed or succeeded in the past; and we must learn from their mistakes. These aspects are important to the quality of life we need in our town.

Do you support public funding of arts, science, history, and heritage programs by your town through funding of ASC? Please explain.

Yes, since government has so many other functions they must fund that assure safety, and efficiency. Once those are adequately funded then functions related to the quality of life should be funded.

A key finding in past cultural plans was the need for facilities outside of downtown Charlotte to support cultural programming and community events and programs. Would you support the continued partnership between the public and private sectors in addressing these needs and the use of public funds to support capital projects?

Maybe, I have seen the many negatives in the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) method of funding particularly when it applies to transportation funding, specifically the I-77 toll lanes. PPP’s should not be used for transportation as it creates a perverse incentive to spend massive amounts of money to “ostensibly” reduce traffic congestion, but in reality, it enriches private companies disproportionately. On the other hand, sometimes PPP’s are successful for buildings only, but they often fail. It should depend on a case-by-case analysis.

National research shows that the arts and cultural sector contributes to quality of life and economic stability. What strategies would you pursue to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy in our region?

First, quality of life is not singularly determined by the cultural sector. Quality of life begins by meeting basic needs, such as transportation efficiency and managing excessive development. Once these basic needs are resolved, then creative methods to add to the cultural arena will have a secondary positive effect on vitality and growth.

Tricia Sisson

2017 Candidate for Town of Cornelius Board of Commissioners

Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts), science or history while growing up and its impact on you.

I played the Clarinet in Band through all of Middle School and High School. I remember my delight when I made first chair as a high school Junior, having practiced and winning out over many who were far more talented than me. Though I didn’t hold the chair long, I developed a true respect for every role in a concert band and the hard work and dedication it takes to constantly practice and improve. That experience taught me much about life, how to work with many diverse people (and instruments) to collectively make the whole sound so much better than the individuals alone.

What’s your vision for the town? What role, if any, does art, science and history play in advancing that vision?

My vision for Cornelius is a community with amenities that fit the needs of all it’s residents. Small businesses like restaurants, entertainment facilities, and shops play a large part in that, so it’s critically important Cornelius is a place where businesses want to locate. Arts, Science and History also play a critical role in ensuring our residents have access to those amenities and the culture that they provide. Cornelius has approved the new Arts Center and it will be an outstanding addition to the town.

Do you support public funding of arts, science, history, and heritage programs by your town through funding of ASC? Please explain.

The town of Cornelius has a history of supporting the Arts, as mentioned above with the new Arts Center. I believe these ventures require a combination of public and private funding. As a board member and Rotarian with the North Mecklenburg Rotary Club, I have supported Rotary’s funding of the Arts, History and Heritage programs throughout our region, including the 911 Memorial and the Veterans Memorial. I will also be highly supporting of Rotary’s involvement in the funding of the new Arts Center.

A key finding in past cultural plans was the need for facilities outside of downtown Charlotte to support cultural programming and community events and programs. Would you support the continued partnership between the public and private sectors in addressing these needs and the use of public funds to support capital projects?

Yes, I fully support public/private partnerships and would be highly supportive of businesses and organizations willing to help these facilities be built in our area of North Mecklenburg.

National research shows that the arts and cultural sector contributes to quality of life and economic stability. What strategies would you pursue to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy in our region?

As stated above, strong economic development is needed to encourage businesses of all types, including arts and cultural sector institutions, and I would work to ensure the processes to approve these businesses and institutions is expedient and seamless.

Richard J. Stilwell, Jr.

2017 Candidate for Cornelius Board of Commissioners

Please share a meaningful experience you had with art (visual, dance, drama, music, media arts), science or history while growing up and its impact on you.

I vividly remember bringing black and white pictures to life in a darkroom for the first time and thinking how cool is that! I loved it so much I went on to become the President of the film club for a couple of years.

What’s your vision for the town? What role, if any, does art, science and history play in advancing that vision?

Oh my gosh I can see art everywhere from topiairies and statuary in a botanical garden to a lone bronze statue of a dog standing beside the greenway trail for all to pet as they pass. I want fountains and and art to dress up the town. To fill out town with a cultural vibe that makes everyone want to be here.

Do you support public funding of arts, science, history, and heritage programs by your town through funding of ASC? Please explain.

Absolutely unequivocally yes! I have given to the ASC for many many years. I am a member of the Gantt, Mint, and Becthler Museums now and and I want what Charlotte has and more here! ART IS one of the biggest keys to quality of life.

A key finding in past cultural plans was the need for facilities outside of downtown Charlotte to support cultural programming and community events and programs. Would you support the continued partnership between the public and private sectors in addressing these needs and the use of public funds to support capital projects?

I avow and promise here and now I will do as much as possible to advance the Arts in or out of a government position.

National research shows that the arts and cultural sector contributes to quality of life and economic stability. What strategies would you pursue to ensure the continued vitality and growth of the creative economy in our region?

Appreciation of the arts begins in school. We need to plant the seeds of art in those young minds so art will not be left out in the future like it is now in most adult lives.

We have to create a mindset in the region that art brings a return on the money spent. We have to be brave and fight the neighsayers and not worry so much about the fact they may have to pay a fraction of a percent more in taxes.

Art is life!


The following candidates for the Town of Cornelius did not submit a response: 

Woody Washam, Jr., Candidate for Mayor

Jim Duke, Candidate for Board of Commissioners

Michelle Ferlauto, Candidate for Board Commissioners

Michael (Mike) Miltich, Candidate for Board of Commissioners

Thurman Ross, Jr., Candidate for Board of Commissioners

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