Reading the paper several months ago an article concerning Charles Francis’ candidacy for Raleigh mayor caught my attention. The article mentioned the name of the law firm Francis founded, so it was an easy matter to research the firm and find his email address.
I sent emails to Francis concerning communities and neighborhoods throughout Raleigh including the Fayetteville Street district, which is home to me and my wife. He responded to some of my emails, and one evening called me and talked with me for 45 minutes. He also agreed to meet with me in August. Our meeting lasted two hours. During our conversation, Francis proved to be an engaging, knowledgeable man who does not indulge in gossip or personal attacks. He is a superb listener.
He is plain-spoken about where he sees shortcomings and opportunities for the city to do better. He also views disagreement as an opportunity, asking me on two occasions, “Will, I’d like to hear more about what you have to say and am willing to read anything you might wish to share on the subject. Let’s see if one of us can help the other see things differently or maybe come to a new mutual understanding.”
It has been my pleasure to hear Francis speak to many issues including city planning and development, equity in delivery of city services, fairness in pay for city employees, accessible and affordable housing opportunities and public engagement by city officials. I’ve also heard him answer questions from residents during meetings throughout Raleigh. Not once did he engage in personal attacks or other divisive campaign tactics. Same goes for his campaign materials and communication.
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Contrary to what has been said of him in some editorials, my experience shows Francis to have been a candidate who shunned divisiveness and personal attacks.
After we met in person my days were spent canvassing in support of his candidacy. While out canvassing, it impressed me that so many men and women from all walks of life told me they knew him and shared stories pertaining to his character, compassion and work ethic.
My observation about Raleigh, having moved here about five years ago, is that the city has been and is divided along broad fault lines including how well we are planning for growth, how much value is derived from our tax dollars and city fees, and Raleigh’s responsiveness to emerging needs.
Francis consistently raising issues along these fault lines, in a straight forward dignified manner while campaigning. He cannot be accurately described as divisive.
Instead, questions and revelations resulting from Francis’ candidacy raised the people of Raleigh’s collective consciousness.
Two things greatly impressed me about Francis during the campaign. First he is a superb listener and does not drop a conversation with anyone because someone else shows up. Instead, he takes his time and completes the conversation in which he is engaged. He values all people equally.
Then there was the time he was overheard by me talking with a woman who had already informed him she would not be voting for him. Ten minutes after his advisers and a few family members had left to get ready for an endorsement rally featuring Sen. Cory Booker, Francis was still there, speaking with the woman who would not vote for him. Within an earshot he was heard saying, “The important thing is to realize that we are all on a spiritual journey. We all have a beginning and an end, and it is what we do with the in between time that matters.”
Meeting Francis, talking with him, and getting to know him made it easy to join so many others and get out on the campaign trail supporting him. I am honored to call Charles Francis my friend.
Will Marks served as Vice-Chairperson of the Central Citizens Advisory Council and is a retired international publishing executive living in Raleigh with his wife.