A city council candidate misspoke about her career. She should address it. | Opinion

When a candidate for public office makes a mistake, the worst thing they can do is refuse to address it head-on.

So it’s disappointing that Stephanie Hand hasn’t directly answered concerns about whether she misrepresented her previous work experience.

Hand, the Democrat running for Charlotte City Council in District 6, said multiple times in a recent appearance on WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” that she “ran airports,” including here in Charlotte. The Charlotte Ledger fact-checked that claim and found that while Hand did work in the airport industry, she didn’t exactly “run airports,” nor did she ever work for Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

It would probably be more accurate to say that she worked at Charlotte Douglas, as she worked for Host Marriott, a division of Marriott International, as the executive operations manager at the airport. According to her LinkedIn profile, Hand managed a $75 million portfolio for Charlotte Douglas, including 45 food and retail brands and 500 employees. She also worked in a regional capacity, doing business at other airports along the East Coast, her LinkedIn says.

This is how Hand described the role on “Charlotte Talks”:

“Anything that a customer, a flier that goes through the airport, those are the things that I manage — everything a customer saw in the airport, but not only at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, but from Florida, all the way to New York City, the airports there.”

If Hand was, in fact, overseeing the food and retail offerings at various airports across the region, then that sounds like a fair description. But saying that she “ran airports” sounds more like an embellishment and can easily be misconstrued. It suggests that she worked in airport administration — dealing with airlines, security, construction and airplane maintenance. Based on the description provided on LinkedIn, Hand did not do any of those things.

We get it. When people are speaking off the cuff, they don’t always speak as precisely and accurately as they should. But they must own up to it and correct the record. Unfortunately, Hand has not done that.

Instead, Hand is doing what politicians too often do: deflecting instead of acknowledging she messed up.

The Editorial Board contacted Hand to ask her about the issue but did not get a response from her directly. Instead, the response came from Dan McCorkle, Hand’s campaign consultant, who said Hand was unavailable but provided the following quote from her:

“Thanks for asking. I was the Operations Manager for HMSHost at the Charlotte Douglas Airport and was the General Manager for the same company at the Little Rock National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas.”

That’s not the forthright explanation we were hoping for. Voters deserve better answers than that, and it’s unfortunate that Hand is unwilling to provide them. It’s the wrong move, especially so close to Election Day.

This also is true, however: Hand does not appear to have a pattern of embellishing or misrepresenting the truth. The Editorial Board has interviewed her twice in the past two years as part of our endorsement process, and she did not mislead us about her experience on either occasion. In other places, such as her campaign website, her description of her role is more accurate, saying that she has “executive experience” in the airport industry.

We endorsed Hand over Republican incumbent Tariq Bokhari, and we still believe she is the better candidate. Did Hand misrepresent her airport experience? Yes, although we can’t say for sure whether it was intentional. Should she have come out and corrected it? Absolutely. Is it disqualifying? No. Troubling, but not disqualifying.