Susan Watson has had a little time to consider her late husband’s legacy.
A month to the day after Randy Watson died, Susan watched with anticipation as his daughter and her stepdaughter of 28 years, won the vote Nov. 3 to become the next mayor of Charlotte. Democrat Jennifer Roberts earned more than 41,000 ballots – better than 52 percent – to defeat Republican Edwin Peacock and 112 write-ins.
“I had confidence in her,” Watson said. “I’m glad people could see her qualities.”
Watson thought of her husband. The man she spent two decades with in River Hills after retiring. Watson thought how proud he would be not only of the result, but the person behind it.
“He’d probably say, wonderful,” Watson said. “That was his favorite word. He’d say ‘wonderful, I’m so proud of her.’ That’s exactly what he’d say.”
Watson sees herself as somewhat political. Her husband? Well, the idea he had a politically active daughter wouldn’t surprise those who knew him.
“He was very political,” Watson said. “He would express his opinion.”
Randy’s mother, Katharine, may have been the original political activist in the family. She championed women’s rights, Watson said, long before voters tabbed her granddaughter to lead a major U.S. city.
Randy Watson wasn’t involved much in the mayoral effort because of his health, but enjoyed his daughter’s political accomplishments including time as chairwoman of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners.
“He wasn’t able to participate because he was in a wheelchair, and he was confined to the house,” Watson said. “He contributed financially and spiritually.”
Watson still sees a good bit of her late husband in Roberts. Both well-read, funny and caring with a love of family, the two were “very much the same.” The middle-of-the-road, open minded approach Watson sees in her stepdaughter’s politics is a reflection of family values, even to the point of planning holidays.
Between the children and stepchildren there are a dozen grandchildren for Randy and Susan, so they started celebrating Christmas the Saturday before Dec. 25 each year. Thanksgiving gatherings come every other year on a rotation of host sites. The holiday approach brought the family together, Watson said, but also gave each family its own time to celebrate.
Watson stops to consider what type of mayor Roberts will be. Maybe the holidays are a clue.
“I don’t see anyone compromising anymore, and I could see her doing it,” Watson said. “I think she looks at all sides.”
Roberts has a long history volunteering and serving. She was grown when Watson married her father, so Watson tries to recall whether Roberts was working as a diplomat with the U.S. State Department or advocating for public school improvements at the time. Keeping up with Roberts can be a task.
Watson marvels at the energy her stepdaughter has, whether on the campaign trail or alone with her family. Watson recalls her son’s wedding in California, and how Roberts made the most of the trip with her family.
“They were active,” Watson said. “They were out there riding in a canoe. They were together, in the moment. She’s always in it.”
If Roberts has a political ego or an ax to grind, Watson knows nothing of it. Watson says Charlotte voters made a choice Nov. 3 they will be proud of in time. They elected less of a politician, Watson said, than they did a person.
“She just genuinely cares about people, and that’s the truth,” Watson said.
John Marks: 803-831-8166