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Longtime council representative James Mitchell to resign
Stepping aside after 20 years for business interests
Published Monday, January 11, 2021 9:00 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Charlotte City Council at-large representative James Mitchell is resigning from the panel effective at 5 p.m. today.

James Mitchell is leaving Charlotte City Council.

The 20-year council member announced his resignation – effective at 5 p.m. today – at this morning’s city council retreat. Mitchell, an at-large representative, stated his new position as minority owner and president of R.J. Leeper Construction was the deciding factor for his departure from council, as well as other interests. A U.S. Senate seat will become available in 2022.

Mitchell’s replacement will be appointed by council, which will be responsible for establishing and executing the process. The statutory provision is 160A-63, which gives the panel authority to fill the seat. A city spokesperson cited that city council must replace Mitchell with a registered Democrat due to partisan elections.

Mitchell is a Charlotte native, West Charlotte High School and North Carolina Central University graduate. He served three terms as an at-large council member and represented District 2 from 1999-2013.   

“Stepping away from City Council is an incredibly tough decision for me because serving the citizens of Charlotte over parts of four decades has been one of my greatest joys and privileges,” Mitchell said in a statement. “But doing so will allow me to focus fully on growing R.J. Leeper as a vehicle for creating opportunity in our community, especially for people of color.”

RJ Leeper Construction is the first acquisition of Bright Hope Capital LLC, an investment firm that was announced last week. Its key investors are EY Charlotte managing partner Malcomb Coley, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl and Duke Energy Executive Lloyd Yates, who established Bright Hope Capital as a means of helping Black- and Hispanic-owned businesses in the Charlotte area grow and develop.

“The partners of Bright Hope Capital could not think of anyone more qualified to lead R.J. Leeper Construction to its next level of success than James Mitchell,” Coley said last week. “James has the right experience, leadership and integrity to continue R.J. Leeper’s trajectory as a premier construction company in the Carolinas and beyond.”

Ron Leeper founded R.J. Leeper in 1993, three years after discussing the lack of Black representation in the construction industry with McColl. The company’s focus rests on commercial construction projects and is licensed in North and South Carolina. R.J. Leeper Construction is collaborating with Holder Construction and Edison Foard on renovating the Charlotte Convention Center and Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Leeper will retire, and remain involved with the organization as a consultant for Bright Hope Capital. He was also a mentor to Mitchell, who previously worked as senior business development manager at JE Dunn Construction Company​ and director of business development for Barton Malow.

Mitchell, who served as chair of the city’s economic development committee, helped clear the way for development of Northlake Mall, the naming of Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard, improving the Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road intersection and bringing the National League of Cities national conference to Charlotte. He also championed using athletics as a tourist attraction, which led to the CIAA basketball tournament’s 15-year run in Charlotte, construction of Truist Field Uptown and acquisition of the city’s Major League Soccer franchise, Charlotte FC.

Mitchell was elected president of the National League of Cities in 2011, becoming the second elected official from North Carolina to reach the organization’s top position. He is also the President of Next Level Leadership Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to training Charlotte’s next Black leaders.

“While I’m sad to say goodbye, I leave with joy and satisfaction knowing we have accomplished so much together on this journey,” Mitchell said. “I am grateful for the exceptional work the Council and city employees do to make Charlotte a great place to live, work and play, and it has been my greatest privilege to support those efforts.”



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