1-on-1 with newly elected Mecklenburg County Commissioner Susan Harden

Sit-down with Susan Harden

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One of the newcomers on the all-Democrat Mecklenburg County Commission is Susan Harden.

Harden, a 51-year-old married mother of two, beat incumbent Matthew Ridenhour in District 5. That covers most of the southeast Charlotte “wedge” between Independence and South boulevards. There’s are about 120-thousand registered voters in that area. Harden won by a thousand votes.

“I didn’t think we would win,” she told Anchor Molly Grantham. “I thought we’d work hard and I thought we would put forth a good challenge, but it was a surprise to me we won. I ran because I wanted to model what a community looks like for my students and my children. I think democracy doesn’t work unless people step forward and try to run for office.”

Harden is a tenured professor at UNC-Charlotte who teaches teachers. She has never been involved in politics before now.

Also fascinating... Susan reached out to us because she said she wanted to speak to a female reporter, and all the reporters calling her today were men. She said she’s thrilled to be part of the “Year of the Woman.”

“What do you say in response to those who say, ‘Hold onto your wallets!’ now that Democrats won all seats for the Mecklenburg County Commission?” Grantham asked. “There is concern there won’t be much dissenting opinion.”

“I say that being a Democrat is just one part of who I am,” she said. “I’m also a mom. I’m a teacher. I think that’s really unfair to say we’re just our political party. We each ran on issues."

Harden also said she is “fiscally conservative.” “I manage my household finances, and it’s important for me to save,” she said. “I want Charlotte to be affordable. So I think just broad-brushing one party or the other is just not accurate. I see dissenting opinion all the time among Democrats. I think we try to be a big tent, and because we have a big tent we tend to have diverse approaches to things. I don’t expect it to be Kum Ba Yah and not have any disagreement on how we ought to move forward.”

“This means the issues that women care about may very well get addressed,” she said. “We know that when women run, women win. And when women win, they really do champion the issues in their lives."

She says she thought for a long time about entering the race, knowing the negativity associated with politics. She says she is proud of what she calls her “positive campaign” and ultimately got in this year because she just felt like it was right.

“Education is important to me,” she said. “As you know, we saw 20,000 teachers march in Raleigh in May. I wanted to be a champion for their issues, as I have been my whole professional life. It seemed very natural for me to take up those issues with this next step.”

She paused.

“I overall want to be a community leader,” she said. “I want to be the community’s voice.”

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