Getting Elected: Laura Meier's Transformational Journey to County Commissioner
Charlotte Women’s Movement is grateful for the leadership and dedication of Laura Meier as Co-President from 2018-2020. Her work and energy on a wide variety of community issues shows she is well prepared to provide leadership in her new position as a Mecklenburg County Commissioner representing District 5. Newsletter editor Mary Staton interviewed Laura about her journey towards public office
When did you first get interested in politics? As the daughter of a newspaper man – who went from obit writer to reporter to city editor to managing editor – current events were most important in our house, with politics almost always in the forefront.
One of my earliest memories of politics was looking at the TV when Reagan won. On the screen, the US map was completely red except for Georgia, Jimmy Carter’s home state. It was my first lesson in the Electoral College, but my 10-year-old brain was focused only on the sea of red. I couldn’t believe the entire country voted for Reagan, and didn’t understand it.
Years later, as a high school Social Studies teacher, I worked to instill the importance of following current events, while using history for context. I gave my students extra credit for bringing in articles and being able to explain the article. And I brought in history to help them find possible correlations.
When did you first decide you wanted to run for office? Most likely when I graduated from college with a Political Science degree from Appalachian State University in 1991. However, it was a poster’s words I spotted at the Washington, DC Women’s March on January 21, 2017 that galvanized me: “I always wondered why somebody wasn’t doing something about that. Then I realized I am somebody.” Those words made me wonder why more women weren’t running for office and to ask myself, “Why not me?” I had volunteered for campaigns – Harvey Gantt in 1996, Josh Stein and Deborah Ross in 2016, and registered people to vote in 2016 – but was so inspired once home from Washington that I began immediately to plan my entry into politics.
What issues are most concerning to our county? And in your district? Racial equity and implicit bias, mental health services, public green spaces and recreation, education and affordable housing. I believe that racial equity and the understanding and the owning of our implicit biases is going to be an ongoing issue for not only District 5 but the entirety of our county, our state and our country!
My personal journey on understanding racial equity and implicit bias began right after the 2016 election. I was invited to a showing and discussion of the documentary, “The 13th”, that explores the 1865 Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery and the issues surrounding race, justice and mass incarcerations that have ensued since its passage. The next night I took my whole family to see it. Soon after, my son and I attended the six-week session Educate to Engage, where we read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. In Spring in 2017, I attended the two-day Race Matters for Juvenile Justice workshop. Shortly thereafter, I joined CWM and co-chaired the Racial Equity group with Kay Ethridge and Kathryn Mahan. My journey to better understand this topic has been truly transformational.
What do you hope to accomplish in your first term? To help our county leadership contract with high-quality professionals for our mental health services to replace Cardinal Innovations. I also want to see universal pre-K funding, and ensure all kids in Mecklenburg County get equitable education. And hope to work with City Council to address affordable workforce housing (specifically for teachers, nurses, paramedics, fire fighters, police officers, employees of banks, law firms, and other professional services) so that those who work here can actually live here, which benefits us all.
What are Mecklenburg County’s greatest assets? What fires you up about living here? Our beautiful parks and greenways, the arts/cultural scene, and our schools. I want to see access to and for all. I love living in Charlotte and believe it a privilege to do so.
What does our future look like? Quite bright! Covid-19 has been and will continue to be one of the biggest hardships of our time but Mecklenburg County will bounce back. We are strong people who care about each other.
Where did you grow up? My dad’s job took us different places, but when I was 10, we settled in Charleston SC.
When did you move to CLT and what brought you here? I moved here in 1993 to attend graduate school at Winthrop. I lived in an old one-bedroom quadraplex in Dilworth, which had no drawers in the kitchen! I’ve never left Dilworth; I love the history and incredible people who live here.
Congratulations from community leaders:
We’re so glad for the victories that came out of Tuesday’s election, and hopeful that those elected can create REAL change in our part of the world. We’re especially proud of Laura Meier’s election to the District 5 seat on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. We know her passion and hard work will have an impact. She’s an advocate for equity who will elevate the voices of marginalized communities, which is exactly what’s needed during these tumultuous and difficult times.
– CWM Co-President Gina Navarrete
In the midst of our stunned disappointment about many of the election results, I wanted to take a moment to congratulate and celebrate Laura Meier for her win. So happy and fortunate to have you on County Commission, advocating for all the right things. Congratulations, Laura!
– Rosalyn Allison-Jacobs
The years of bridge building Laura has done across our county, the work she has put into major community issues, and her tireless work ethic provides the perfect foundation for her role as a county commissioner…I have witnessed first-hand her dedication to serve everyone in our community. We are fortunate she has made this commitment… Congratulations! I am excited that the voters chose you, Laura!
Me too! Congratulations, Laura, on a well-deserved win. You fought hard and will continue to fight hard for your constituents.