The New Hanover County commissioners’ next regular meeting date, Oct. 1, will come two days before the county Republican Party can name a temporary replacement for Rep. Ted Davis Jr., who resigned from his commission chairman seat after being appointed to fill a state House seat.
Davis was sworn into office on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
The commissioners will have to vote at a meeting about whether to accept a recommendation from the GOP or go with a candidate of their own choosing for Davis’ vacant seat.
“The statute is worded that they shall hear from the party,” New Hanover County GOP chairwoman Rhonda Amoroso said during a telephone interview Monday, Sept. 24.
Commissioner Rick Catlin said while he would like to wait until a full board can vote on the decision he asked county attorney Wanda Copley if the board could appoint someone to Davis’ seat before receiving a recommendation from the Republican Party.
“I don’t support that, but I wanted to ask that question,” Catlin said. “As it turns out, her interpretation of the statute was that we shall receive a recommendation from the party, not we may. I think we actually have to wait.”
The topic could arise at the commissioners agenda briefing Thursday, Sept. 27.
“Commissioner (Jonathan) Barfield, as vice chairman, he can serve in that capacity,” Catlin said. “We will just have to see what happens. I know that staff has some concerns over not having a chairman and a vice chairman, and I will certainly listen to those concerns. If they present an argument that we need to go ahead and do something then we will.”
The commission chairman’s duties include reviewing agendas, calling for public input sessions if not required but needed and signing off on proclamations, resolutions, zoning maps, special use permits and other documents, Davis said.
The GOP’s interview process will be wrapped up by Monday, Oct. 1, Amoroso said, adding that a replacement recommendation was to be named on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
“There was no way for me to expedite the process,” she said. “You’re looking at a couple of days from the first to the third, so I am hopeful that the county commission will wait to hear from us … The law does provide for the party to have input, so it behooves them to wait for the party recommendation.”
About 12 candidates expressed interest in the vacated position, Amoroso said, adding that is a rough number and that the list of names changes daily.
Names on the list as of press time included Dr. Derrick Hickey, a county school board member and Republican candidate for one of three county commission seats open for election. Hickey said he was interested in getting on the board before the election to see the issues from another angle.
“There’s so much that goes on in the background,” Hickey said. “I was very interested in trying to start my tenure early.”
But the lapse of time has concerned Hickey.
“The Republican Party has dragged its proverbial feet about this,” Hickey said.
The appointment would last until Dec. 3 when the new five-member commission board takes over.
“It’s really not that long,” Amoroso said. “It’s really important to have someone in there again but that’s up to the commission. If they want to leave it open for the six weeks, I guess they can do that, too.”
Davis resigned as commission chairman after Gov. Bev Perdue confirmed his appointment last week as a temporary replacement for Rep. Danny McComas, R-New Hanover, in the 19th District. McComas had resigned after being named a new chairman of the North Carolina State Ports Authority Board of Directors.
“State statute says you cannot hold two elected positions at the same time even though one of them may be appointed,” Davis, who began serving as a county commissioner in 1996, said during a telephone interview Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Davis, a Wilmington divorce attorney, is running for the House District 19 seat in the November general election against Kure Beach Town Councilwoman Emilie Swearingen, a Democrat and longtime teacher. The General Assembly is not scheduled to go back into session until January but Davis said he wanted to start gaining experience in the House and developing relationships so that if elected he could hit the ground running.
“I want to immediately assume that role and move forward,” Davis said. “If anyone wants to contact me or approach me with concerns they can certainly do so.”
McComas’ legislative assistant, Judy Lowe, has agreed to work with Davis.
“She is just extremely experienced and well-respected and has great ties with the people here in New Hanover County,” Davis said. “She has told me some of the things she is doing while she is up there as far as constituents calling, needing help, having issues.”