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Charlotte Area

Charlotte 'An Incredible Surprise' To New City Manager Carlee

Charlotte's new city manager went on WFAE's Charlotte Talks Wednesday to get more specific about his views on issues the city faces – including transit and airport management. 

Ron Carlee is 59 and has spent the last several years visiting cities and counties around the country as an executive the International City/County Management Association. 

But he'd never been to Charlotte until he interviewed for the city manager's job.

"Charlotte has been an incredible surprise to me," says Carlee. "The extent to which people who live in Charlotte who have come from all over this country – not just native Charlotteans - love living in this city."

Carlee's so enamored with Uptown that he and his wife have forsaken their suburban-dwelling past for a center city condo.

He's a big fan of mixing up residential and retail uses to revive stagnant neighborhoods and he's really into transit: "You will never build enough roads to keep up with the kind of growth that a metropolitan area like Charlotte aspires to do."

Carlee especially likes streetcars because they're cheaper to build than light rail but better than buses at spurring new development.

When he was manager of Arlington County, Virginia he proposed one that hasn't been built yet and is still controversial. He doesn't have an opinion of Charlotte's streetcar plan, but will soon.

"My analysis really is gonna focus on the return on investment," says Carlee. "The reason to do streetcar is specifically to stimulate growth of jobs and residential units as part of a redevelopment program in the city." 

Carlee went on WFAE's Charlotte Talks as part of a media blitz introducing him to the public.

Thus far his views align with the mayor and most city council members.  He's critical of state lawmakers trying to usurp the city's control over the Charlotte airport. He has a dim view of airport authorities from his time leading Arlington County where a tri-state group runs DC-area airports. A federal audit recently criticized that authority's ethics and financial management, "and a whole host of problems are coming to light with what is an independent authority there that is ultimately not directly accountable to anybody," noted Carlee.

He's already differentiating himself from former city manager Curt Walton who saw himself mainly as an administrator and shied away from media interviews.

The mayor and city council have made it clear they hired Carlee to both administrate and advocate their vision.