Elect: Hinnant, Johnson square off in Kannapolis mayor’s race
By Josh Bergeron
KANNAPOLIS — With downtown revitalization on the horizon, two men are vying to be the city’s mayor.
Incumbent Darrell Hinnant is running for re-election. Dennis Johnson, an army veteran, is challenging Hinnant, and taking another shot at running for elected office.
Hinnant currently runs a consulting business. Previously, he worked in various roles for a chemical companies and as the executive director of the N.C. Hazardous Waste Management Commission. Before becoming mayor, he served on the Kannapolis City Council for 12 years.
Meanwhile, Johnson volunteers to take people to the VA hospital and other clinics. He has owned a landscaping business and worked as a truck driver. He has run for Kannapolis City Council previously, but this year he’s the only person challenging Hinnant.
The Salisbury Post asked both candidates the same three questions about downtown revitalization, leadership and one item that the city council should address that it hasn’t yet. Candidates answers were different for every answer.
For years, council members have worked through a revitalization plan that calls for infrastructure improvements, a baseball stadium and a demonstration project that would include apartments, retail, parking and possibly a hotel. Parts of the plan have already been put into motion.
Kannapolis committed to provide $12 million for the demonstration project. At least $2.5 million will be needed for infrastructure improvements. More money will be needed to construct a downtown baseball stadium.
When asked, Hinnant said downtown revitalization will be “greatly beneficial” to the city. It’s going to bring jobs and private investment to an area that Hinnant called “dead.”
Johnson said he’s in favor of minimal changes to the downtown area, which he said is in a state of disrepair. He also said locals should be more involved in the decision-making process related to downtown revitalization.
Asked why he’s the best leader for the city of Kannapolis, Hinnant focused on his experience as mayor. Hinnant said he’s been an “aggressive ambassador” and traveled to Raleigh frequently to advocate for the city. Hinnant said he’s knowledgeable of the city’s history and understands how to leverage opportunities to make the city a better place to live.
“I do see myself as being someone who can be a strong leader to help our community become better,” he said.
Johnson answered that the mayor is mostly just another member of the council. The mayor is the face of the city, but the position’s primary responsibility is leading council members during meetings, Johnson said. He followed that answer with an emailed response defining a leader. Johnson said a leader weighs all facts and sides of an argument before making a decision.
Asked about an item the council should address that it hasn’t yet, Hinnant said he wants to see more work to improve the quality of housing. He clarified that improving the quality of housing doesn’t mean gentrification or running people out of their houses. Instead, Hinnant said he means fixing leaking roofs and ensuring people have hot water heaters.
Johnson answered that he wants to see the city divided into six districts and assigning a council person to each.
“This would truly be the only fair way for a council person, to fairly represent the residents and not simply represent any special interest group amongst themselves,” he said.
Voters in Kannapolis will have a chance to pick Hinnant or Johnson during early voting, which ends Nov. 4. Election Day is Nov. 7.
The person elected to mayor will serve a four-year term.
Contact Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246
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