Cover Story: Political shakeup?

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One week after big wins for Democrats in our area, the future of who's in charge on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners is up in the air.

A big shake up is about to hit the county commission and it's not because candidates didn't get enough votes.

In a surprising announcement Monday, Chairman Jennifer Roberts says she won't be seeking re-election.  And the number 2 in charge, Vice Chairman Jim Pendergraph, says he may not run.

It's surprised a lot of people and it comes at a time Charlotte's recently re-elected mayor says his number one priority will be to merge city and county government.

"I think it's the right time for me to step aside."

Jennifer Roberts is saying eight is enough.  Eight years in office, six years as the head of Mecklenburg's nine-member county commission and the county's top Democrat.

Roberts has one year left in a two-year term that ends in December 2012.  But since candidates have to file for office next February she says wants to give those sitting on the fence time to make up their mind.

"I want to make sure whoever comes next has the time to think about it thoughtfully not hastily, not last minute," says Roberts.  "I think democracy at the last minute is not a good democracy."

Roberts, the top vote getter in the last three county-wide elections, is keeping her campaign account open giving her the means to run for something else if she decides to, but also leading some to wonder if she'll change her mind at the last minute.

She told us on Monday that's not likely.

"I'm not going to say never but I'm pretty confident in the decision I'm making today."

Meanwhile, the number 2 in charge, Republican Jim Pendergraph says he's leaning toward leaving county commission as well.

"I'll make a decision toward the end of January for sure," Pendergraph said.

Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have drawn a new House seat, District 92, that starts in Huntersville.  It hugs the Catawba River and goes down to southwest Mecklenburg county where Pendergraph lives.

The former sheriff says he's considering running for the District 92 seat now with the GOP in charge in Raleigh.

"They're making a lot of progress and got a lot of things accomplished this past year that I would love to see done here locally," said Pendergraph.

But Democrats are fighting Republicans over the redistricting maps and have gone to court to get them thrown out.

If they prevail the new House seat could be in question.

Roberts and Pendergraph's decision comes at a time Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx is pressing for city and county governments to merge.

"One of the first things I'm going to do is to push for city county consolidation," Foxx told supporters during last Tuesday night's acceptance speech for mayor.

It's the number goal the Charlotte Mayor said he wants to accomplish in second term.

"I really feel like consolidation will happen.. it's all a question of timing," said Roberts.

Pendergraph responded:  "I just don't think this community's ready for that yet."

The chance of consolidation didn't play a role in either commissioner's decision.

Roberts nearly lost her chairmanship in a shakeup last year when Republicans backed Democratic commissioner Harold Cogdell for the top spot.  Cogdell had a change of heart at the last minute and threw his support behind Roberts.

Roberts says she's not sure what she's going to do when her term ends in December 2012.  She says she's been in talks with state and national leaders about other positions.  Roberts says she wants to stay involved.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.