Cover Story: Mayor Pat McCrory's Farewell

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory like you've never seen him.  A special Primetime report with Jeff Atkinson on the mayor's last day in office.  His regrets, his darkest moment, and what he didn't think he'd make it through.

Mayor Pat McCrory is done after 14 years in office.  At 39 years old, he was youngest mayor elected in Charlotte.  And now, at age 53 McCrory is moving on.

This is a pivotal moment, many who live here have never seen another mayor.  And Friday as the mayor was cleaning out his office we saw him at his most candid we've ever seen him before.

With scandal happening at every level of government, McCrory amazingly has kept his nose clean.  20 years in politics he hasn't changed.  What will he do next?

"I got to get this trash can.."

It was moving day for Pat McCrory today.

"These are stuff being thrown away.."

Or specifically moving out day.

14 years as mayor you collect a lot of stuff.  "Oh boy," he says, "the plaques are the hardest.."

Stuff you just cannot keep, especially when the boss says you can't.  "My wife has told me you're not bringing any of this home."

Call in back up is what he had to do.

"Hey buddy.. come on in here."

Furman Smith.. one of four young men McCrory has mentored over the years.  He took Furman under his wing when he was 15.  He's now 31.

"I'm proud of this guy. I'm proud of this guy. Are you ready to leave this place? Oh yeah."

It's how McCrory's swan song has gone in recent days reflecting on the people and the place he's had a hand in leading.

"My goal was not to be remembered," he said.  "My goal was to make a difference. And I think we've made a positive difference."

Charlotte's landscape is lined with McCrory's marks:  Light rail.  NASCAR Hall of Fame.  Bobcats Arena.

In the corner office on the top floor of the government center, he told us he tried hard not to get too big for his britches.

"You get caught in the trappings of a beautiful office and everyone and the cameras.. It really doesn't mean that much. What you leave behind.. the only thing you leave behind is your integrity. My Dad whispered that in my ear a week before he died and a week before I was sworn in as mayor. And I wasn't going to let my Dad down."

Highest moment in 14-years? That was getting a call from the White House that it was sending Hurricane Katrina evacuees here.  And then seeing Charlotte open her arms and care for them.

Darkest hour?  The shootings almost three years ago now of two CMPD officers, Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton.

"That was a very emotional time.. speaking at that funeral.. both funerals. I didn't think I could make it."

For McCrory there was also 9/11 seeing Charlotteans flee from the high-rise office buildings.  And getting that call from US Airways that none of its planes were highjacked that day.

The stuff on the table, all the pictures, all the memories he's taking with him:  Meeting presidents, influential leaders and sports figures.

A picture taken 14 years ago of all the living mayors at the time, "the best of Charlotte" he calls it is a definite keeper.

"I'm a sentimental guy. But I'm doing this at the right time.. yeah. That's enough."

What's McCrory going to do next?  He says he'll probably run for office again, but he's not ready to announce anything right now.

In the meantime, he's going to work in the private sector with his brother.

One regret, McCrory told us that he's not moving from here to public housing in Raleigh:  Public housing being the Governor's Mansion.

There's now a change of power in Charlotte.  We have the first Democrat in office since the 1980s, does he have any thoughts about that?

He did talk a little politics.  He says he is worried about one-party dominance with the Democrats in majority on council and a Democratic mayor, and he wonders if there will still be any checks and balances.