When outgoing Mayor Ted Biggers first made his home here thirty-four years ago, Mint Hill looked a lot different. “Years ago, there was a dress shop and a hardware store down on the square, and that’s about it,” recalls Biggers. “If you ride through downtown now, you wouldn’t recognize it!”
After seven years in the Air Force, Biggers made the decision to move back to Charlotte when he was hired with Piedmont Airlines. “As soon as I got based in Charlotte, we decided to move back here,” says Biggers, whose mother and father both grew up on farms in the Mint Hill area. “My mother suggested that we look in Mint Hill. All of my cousins and grandparents and everybody lived here, so we sort of came back home so to speak. When I first got here, everywhere I go I’d meet some of the older folks who knew my mom and daddy! It was a great feeling.”
Today, most everyone knows Ted as Mayor Biggers, but his over two decades of public service to Mint Hill started in a way many citizens can relate to. With two young girls who played t-ball, Biggers started coaching with the Mint Hill Athletic Association. He also got involved at Philadelphia Presbyterian Church. “They had a strong boy scout program, which I had always been very active in,” says Biggers. “I wanted to get back involved in scouting again now that we were in a more stable place in our lives compared to the Air Force.”
If you ask Biggers’ many friends and colleagues, they’ll tell you that his scouting experience was critical to his eventual success as a public servant. “The Scout Law requires a Scout to be: Trustworthy, Loyal, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent,” says fellow staffer, Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow member Jack Nichols. “Since our early days in Scouting to the present, Ted and I have taken these twelve points of the Scout Law seriously and we have tried to live them. Plus, we know that earning our Eagle Scout rank means that we are expected to give back to our church, to our community and to our nation. I think because of the values and leadership skills that Ted and I absorbed from Scouting, both us went into politics. He as mayor of Mint Hill and I as a Wake County Commissioner from 1900-1994.”
Biggers knew many of Mint Hill’s commissioners from Philadelphia Presbyterian, but there was one he had never met: Bob Whisnant. Needless to say, Biggers was surprised when Whisnant showed up at his house in the spring of 1997 and said he wasn’t going to run for office again and hoped Biggers would run to take his place. “I hadn’t been involved in any politics ever!” says Biggers. “In fact, when we first moved here, our home was not in Mint Hill – it was in the county – so I couldn’t have run for office even if I’d wanted to!” After talking it over with his wife, they decided it would be good for Biggers to get involved in the future of the town they saw as their permanent home.
Not only was Biggers elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1997, but as the highest vote-getter, he was appointed Mayor Pro Tem. One of his first duties was attending a training course in Asheville with other newly elected officials where he learned about different forms of government and proper procedures; in essence, how to be a good public official. “I learned that most of the small municipalities in North Carolina have the “town manager” form of government,” says Biggers. “We still had a town administrator.”
That training course would prove to be a springboard for Biggers’ future in Mint Hill politics. “What I recognized after coming back to Mint Hill from that training was that politics was much too involved in daily operation of our town,” says Biggers. “One of the benefits of the Town Manager form of government is it takes the politics out of your daily operations because the Town Manager does the hiring and firing, and he is the boss of employees. You don’t have a politician that is trying to micromanage every aspect of the town. At the time, Mint Hill was the largest municipality in the state that didn’t have the Town Manager form of government.”
Biggers’ belief that Mint Hill should move to a Town Manager form of government played a big role in his decision to run for Mayor in 1999. “The Town of Mint Hill operated for many years under the Mayor-Council form of government,” recalls former Town Clerk Beth Hamrick. “Recognizing the Town’s growth and the need for change, Ted was instrumental in the Town moving to the Council-Manager form of government. Even with a Town Manager taking care of daily operation, the Office of Mayor still requires a tremendous amount of time and energy,” continues Hamrick. “I have the utmost gratitude for all of our elected officials, but especially the Mayor. The time a Mayor is willing to commit to serving the citizens is astounding; and they do so without pay, rather a pittance.”
When Biggers took office in 1999, Mint Hill lacked its own police force. At the time, Mint Hill paid the city of Charlotte a significant sum for two patrol cars a day to be assigned to Mint Hill, which were often called away. “Our coverage left a lot to be desired,” admits Biggers. “We commissioned a study to see if it was feasible for us to open our own police department, feasible not only from a financial standpoint but also, would it give us more coverage, better coverage, more police protection than we have now?”
“The study came back and said not only can you afford to do this but you’ll save money doing this, and you’ll also have a tremendous amount of coverage – much more than what Charlotte is providing you,” continues Biggers. On September 26, 2002, the Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to establish the Mint Hill Police Department. Initially, the department consisted of 22 sworn police officers, 5 police supervisors, an administrative assistant, and a police chief.
“When I first arrived at Mint Hill as a new police chief, Mayor Biggers and I had a one-on-one discussion about what he expected,” says Chief of Police Tim Ledford. “He told me that he was not an expert in the field of law enforcement and that he was counting on me to ensure the police department ran professionally and effectively. He also mentioned that if politicians attempted to insert themselves into running the police department then I was to notify him and he would take care of it. Mayor Biggers is a staunch supporter of law enforcement, and it has been a pleasure working for him during his tenure as Mayor.”
Another area of importance to Biggers was downtown beautification, which he saw as an integral component of encouraging the type of controlled growth citizens wanted to see in Mint Hill. “Mint Hill was a nice, cozy little town, but we knew growth was coming,” says Biggers. “I knew that developers were going to come here looking to put something in Mint Hill. When they rode through downtown, especially the square at Lawyers and 51, I wanted it to be a nice presentation where they’d look at it and say, ‘Gosh, this is a nice-looking little town. I’d like to come here and invest some money, put something nice here.’”
One change that Biggers had advocated for since he was a commissioner was eliminating the tangled mess of power lines muddying up the intersection of Lawyers and 51. There was just one problem: the price. “I was told when I was commissioner that it was price prohibitive,” recalls Biggers, “so when I got to be mayor, I told the new town manager, let’s look at that again. I want to do it. I want to get this square beautified.” Although burying the lines proved too costly, Biggers, with the help of Town Manager Todd Lamb, was able to have Duke Power and Southern Bell reroute the lines to take them away from the square, effectively kicking off a much-needed facelift for the square. Biggers “dressed up” the intersection with the new control arms with street signs, brick pavers and sidewalks characteristic of the intersection today.
As Biggers’ time as mayor continued it became clear that the current Town Hall facilities were no longer sufficient. “We were in desperate need of more space, both in the assembly room and in the offices,” says Biggers. “It was time to build a new Town Hall.” Biggers took advantage of the competitive market of the recession to purchase land and have the current town hall built. As soon as Mint Hill’s government was seated in the new Town Hall, they began the process of turning the old Town Hall into Mint Hill’s new police department. Biggers is proud to have accomplished both projects without incurring any debt. “Those were two major capital programs that we accomplished, and we did those on or under budget and on schedule,” he remembers.
Biggers has also been instrumental in shaping what school choice looks like for Mint Hill’s families. “The one thing that I would always hear from the Mint Hill parents was we do not want to be bused out of our neighborhood. We want to go to neighborhood schools,” says Bigger. “That was their biggest concern, and they were scared to death Charlotte was going to move them again.”
When Biggers began to look beyond his own children’s education into what was available for everyone in Mint Hill, he realized there weren’t many options. With no private schools, religious schools or charter schools close by, Mint Hill’s citizens were effectually limited to wherever CMS decided to put them – even if it wasn’t their neighborhood school. As Biggers looked more into the idea of charter schools, he made contact with National Heritage Academies, a nationwide charter school provider. “NHA made me the offer that if I would get a charter from the state of North Carolina, they would come down here and build the town of Mint Hill a charter school free of charge,” recalls Biggers. “I said, ‘When can you be here?’”
Queen’s Grant Community School opened for students in grades K-6 in 2002 and expanded by one grade per year to currently serve 763 students in grades K-8. It wasn’t long before demand began to grow for a high school that would continue the Queen’s Grant experience into the secondary school years. In 2006, the state extended the Queen’s Grant charter to include grades 9 and 10 on a satellite campus with a plan to grow by one grade per year through grade 12.
Commissioner Tony Long remembers the impact Biggers had on education in Mint Hill. “His dedication to the youth of our town and education – whether it be primary or middle school or high school – he was very much a visionary of knowing that there was change coming and being willing to adapt to serve all facets of the students,” says Long. “He was instrumental in bringing a charter school and charter high school to Mint Hill, and he’s been very supportive of our other schools here in town, especially Independence.”
Given his many accomplishments in office that have changed the face of Mint Hill as we know it, you may be surprised to hear what Biggers has to say about his own legacy. “Probably the thing that I’m proudest about – and that’s just because of who I am – is the Veterans Day Breakfast and how it’s grown,” says Biggers. As Mayor Pro Tem, Biggers attended several veteran’s appreciation activities in other municipalities. Quickly noticing the large number of veterans in Mint Hill, Biggers questioned why we didn’t have our own Veterans Day celebration. Mint Hill held its first annual veterans breakfast in 1999, and 20 years later, the tradition is still going strong.
Biggers isn’t alone in noting the impact of the Veterans Day Breakfast. “What I really think most notable about Mayor Biggers was how he supported our veterans here in town,” says Ron Freeman, who served on the town Park and Recreation Committee for twenty-five years. “Mayor Biggers will long be remembered for initiating the annual Veterans’ Appreciation Breakfast during his first year as Mayor,” adds Hamrick. “Thanks to Ted and his wife, Liz, as well as dedicated town employees, the event has provided for 20 years some much deserved recognition to our military veterans.”
Perhaps Biggers views this as his greatest accomplishment not only because of how it shows appreciation for our town’s veterans but how it shows the spirit of Mint Hill. “It’s because of how the community has come together to support it,” says Biggers. “People who have no connection to the military come down to serve meals, clean the kitchen and help.”
And truly, it’s that “can-do spirit” of Mint Hill that has kept Biggers in the mayor’s office for twenty years, which has encouraged him to run term after term. “It’s the people,” he says simply. “Everybody pitches in and gets things done together. Seeing people happy that this is their home and involved in town life – that’s probably the best feeling I have.”
As for what’s up next, Biggers is crystal clear: “Absolutely nothing political!” While Biggers plans to continue to volunteer in the community – especially with the Boy Scouts – he’s looking forward to some well-deserved time with family. “There’s not a big job waiting on me out there or anything like that,” says Biggers. “I’m just going to relax and see what comes my way!”
“Twenty years sounds like a long time, but it goes by so quickly it’s frightening,” concludes Biggers. “It’s been a good twenty years for me. I’ve enjoyed it, and I enjoy living here and looking forward to staying here.”
The Town of Mint Hill is holding a retirement reception for Mayor Biggers on Thursday, December 12, 2019, from 4-6 at the Town Hall.
What others are saying:
- Chief of Police Tim Ledford – Mayor Biggers had a vision on how to ensure that Mint Hill was to remain a community with a small town atmosphere. Under his leadership, I believe the town has certainly grown, but at a controlled pace. I have witnessed other towns that did not control the pace of their growth and it created a negative impact on those communities. Overall, Mayor Biggers has been a true leader in every aspect.
- Billy Hawkins – I have known Mayor Biggers for 35 years. This man has been one of the most ethical, hardworking, personable persons I have ever known. He has been an exceptional mayor who has made tireless contributions to our community and sets high standards for strong character values. He truly exemplifies “leads by example”
- Mike Cochrane – I’ve known ted for probably thirty years. He is a gentleman, he is a great leader. He has exemplified being a great leader in the last 20 years he’s been mayor of mint hill, and he’s been able to bestow some Christian values in our town with his personality.
- Dale Dalton – First time I was introduced to Ted he was told by the person introducing us that I was planning on running for commissioner. Ted wanted to know what I was upset about? I told him I was not upset I just want to be involved in working to keeping Mint Hill the town it is. Upon losing my first election Ted called and gave me some words of encouragement and ask that I run again that he thought I would be good for the town. Ted has a deep love for the town of Mint Hill, the Veterans and Scouts and I’m sure he will continue to be involved. It has been an honor in getting to know and work with Ted.
- Brad Simmons – Ted Biggers’ is undoubtedly one of the best mayors our town has had. I plan to ensure continued support for our veterans, Boy Scouts, arts and the Mint Hill Historical Society as Mayor Biggers prioritized. Additionally, as the technology we currently have was unavailable when he took office, I plan to use what we have now to our advantage.”