Councilman recalled as firm, friendly
Cancer claims councilmanBy Jessie Burchette
KANNAPOLIS ó City Councilman Richard Anderson, who died Monday, never let political correctness get in the way of looking after his constituents.
Anderson, 73, was blunt, plain-spoken and at times abrasive. He never carried a grudge and often found friends among his political opponents.
Anderson served as the city’s second mayor after incorporation and was first elected to the Kannapolis City Council in 1991. He was again elected to the council in 2007 and had one year remaining on his term.
When Anderson died Monday night of complications from lung and liver cancer, the 24-year-old city lost an irreplaceable part of its fabric.
“Kannapolis will miss Richard Anderson. He was a titan that helped create this city,” Councilman Kenneth Geathers said Tuesday.
“He worked tirelessly for every cause,” said Geathers, who has served on the City Council for 20 years. “Richard had a unique perspective; he always looked after the little man. He didn’t want to raise taxes.”
Geathers and others cited Anderson’s attention to detail ó which included reading and studying everything about any city issue. He would push staff for more information and prod the council to look at every side of an issue.
City Manager Mike Legg knew firsthand Anderson’s appetite for information. “He read everything I ever typed, word for word. … He read the minutes.”
Anderson had planned to go to a National League of Cities conference in San Antonio, Texas, last week. From his hospital bed, he called Legg on his cell phone to check in and get the latest on what was going on.
Legg started as a planner for the city when Anderson was mayor in 1995 and saw his commitment to the town.
“He was in tune with his constituency. He knew a lot of people in the city. … He knew how long-term residents would react,” Legg said.
“Richard believed in what he was doing,” Legg said. “There was never any mystery where Richard stood.”
During the past several years, Anderson was most often in the minority on issues and in votes.
But that didn’t stop him or even slow him down. And it didn’t stay with him. Legg said once an issue had been argued and voted, everybody was friends again. “That says a lot about Richard.”
Mayor Bob Misenheimer visited Anderson at Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast several times last week.
On Friday, his last visit, Anderson lobbied Misenheimer to look out for the small-business owners of Kannapolis.
“He was sticking up for the little man to the end,” Misenheimer said Tuesday. He counted Anderson as “an awful good friend.”
Misenheimer hailed Anderson’s dedication to the citizens of Kannapolis and his dedication to his family. “Richard worked tirelessly for his constituents, many of whom he worked with at Cannon Mills during his 40-year-career there,” he said.
Anderson and Arnold Chamberlain, former Rowan County commissioner, had several things in common ó politics, baseball and being the target of the county’s infamous Common Sense investigation.
In 2005, commissioners fired longtime Rowan County Manager Tim Russell after discovering he had used county funds to hire private investigators to find the writer of anonymous letters critical of county government.
The letters, often signed “Department of Common Sense,” started with the county’s participation in building a baseball stadium in Kannapolis ó Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium on Moose Road.
For years, Anderson was the chief suspect, with private investigators following him to the post office, restaurants and gab sessions at Centerview Hardware ó a group mistakenly labeled a pro-liquor group.
At one point, Russell claimed he had proof that Anderson was Common Sense ó contending that fingerprints taken from a barbecue plate used at a Cabarrus Chamber of Commerce event matched prints on the letters.
A couple of years later, Russell claimed that handwriting analysis proved Chamberlain was in fact Common Sense.
A former FBI handwriting analyst hired by Chamberlain disagreed with the analysis.
Though irked at the idea of being followed by private investigators on and off for years, Anderson managed to make light of the situation and said all investigators had to do was ask. “If the fools had come and asked me, I’d have told them I didn’t have a thing to do with these letters.”
Referring to the Common Sense episode, Chamberlain said Tuesday he and Anderson “share some unpleasantness. It’s really quite comical. You know, Richard did have a lot of common sense.
“He was the kind of guy you could have a knock-down, drag-out discussion with, the next time you saw him, he was just Richard,” he said.
Both got aggravated in discussions about ownership of Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, Chamberlain admitted, but it never stood in the way of their friendship.
“In the world of local politicians and in the world of political correctness, Richard Anderson was a real man. … Understand I’m emphasizing man,” Chamberlain said. “Now the politically correct crowd will take over.”
Chamberlain compared Anderson to Newton Cohen Sr., who served 16 years on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, leaving his imprint on all phases of county operations.
“Really, Richard was an abrasive version of Newton Cohen. He’ll be missed. He was a stand-up, straight-talking guy.”
Although a registered Democrat, Anderson never let party affiliation get in his way. He often worked the precincts for Republicans, including Cohen and Cabarrus County Commissioner Coy Privette.
And when Linda Johnson appeared to be on the verge of losing her seat on the Kannapolis Board of Education, Anderson mounted a phone and personal-contact campaign to assure her victory. Johnson, a Republican, now represents Kannapolis in the State House.