The appointment of Dan Clodfelter as Charlotte’s new mayor filled one political void, while creating another.
Clodfelter was sworn in last week as mayor to replace Patrick Cannon, whose unexpired term runs through December 2015. Joining the city means leaving the state Senate seat Clodfelter held since 1999.
As a senator, Clodfelter was a member of the Catawba-Wateree River Basin Advisory Commission, made up of legislators and other water interests from both states. Charlotte gaining a mayor means the commission is losing a charter member.
S.C. Sen. Wes Hayes and Clodfelter often mirrored their work with the bi-state group since it formed in fall 2005. Clodfelter nominated Hayes to be the chairman the group, and Clodfelter served as first vice chairman. When North Carolina took its first turn leading, Clodfelter became chairman.
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Hayes, who also served with the new mayor on a committee to “pin down the state line,” said descriptions of Clodfelter as a problem-solver fit.
“He is genuine and has been genuine in finding out ways to solve problems impacting our states,” Hayes said.
The bi-state group hosted leaders from both states to announce a settlement in the federal lawsuit between the Carolinas, after North Carolina approved a controversial interbasin transfer. The commission helped work toward that resolution.
Both states now have surface water modeling legislation along the Catawba River, thanks to Hayes and Clodfelter.
“You have to work on good faith when you’re working with independent states,” Hayes said.
Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins said it remains to be seen what impact Clodfelter leaving the bi-state group will have.
“The question is, who’s going to replace him?” Perkins said. “I hope they get someone who knows water and water issues as much as he did.”
Perkins works with legislators from both states. He found Clodfelter “unique among senators” in his knowledge of and effort toward environmental issues, work he’ll continue as mayor.
“He will very much have the quality of water in Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie all at the forefront,” Perkins said.
Coal ash impoundments along the Catawba River remain a concern for Perkins. A water supply master plan should be released soon from a water management group of Duke Energy and municipal water providers on the river. Familiarity with this issue and others will serve Charlotte well when water concerns “explode onto the scene,” Perkins said.
Tim Mead, chairman of the Catawba-Wateree group, has a 30-year history with Clodfelter including a time when the current mayor sat on Charlotte City Council and Mead on the planning commission. Mead has the “utmost respect for his intelligence and his integrity.”
Clodfelter’s loss to that group, Mead said, will be felt.
“To say he was a charter member of that group understates the case,” Mead said. “He and Wes Hayes were instigators.”
North Carolina Senate will appoint a new commission after it reconvenes May 14.