01/14/07 — GOP names Strickland new chief

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GOP names Strickland new chief

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 14, 2007 10:47 AM

Wayne County Republican Party Chairman Ed Wharton has resigned, citing personal reasons, and the party has appointed a temporary replacement until county precincts select a new chairman in March.

Billy Strickland, 33, a Golds-boro lawyer, assumed the post last week and said he would work to continue the party's growth locally as long as he holds the job.

Strickland is a native of South Carolina who worked as a mechanic to pay his way through Campbell University. He started his own business and then sold it to pay for law school.

He said he would bring the same drive to the job of boosting the party's growth in Wayne County.

"I want to see the Republican Party evolve in Wayne County. Not to say that it hasn't, but I want to keep it active and see it grow," Strickland said. "In eastern North Carolina 10 years ago, you couldn't vote in the elections unless you were registered as a Democrat. Since people thought the elections were decided in the Democratic primary, there was no chance for Republicans."

That has changed, and election rolls show more of the county's voters have begun to register Republican.

Strickland said that growth can continue if the party convinces young voters to continue to register Republican. Young blood would not only add to the voter registration rolls, he said, but stimulate veteran Republicans to work even harder at increasing the party's numbers.

"Maybe we can establish some competitions for the amount of people registered Republican per precinct or the highest number of voter registrations for the precincts. I want 10 to 20 percent of the people in each district to participate," Strickland said. "That will help increase participation in our regular and executive meetings."

Increased participation should lead to more candidates for more offices, Strickland said, giving voters more opportunities.

"I think it's all about enacting the rights we've been given and working to protect those rights, and I think this is the way to do it," Strickland said.

But he said he will need the public's help.

"I don't know if you've ever heard of a 'post turtle,' but if you're driving down a country road and you see a turtle on a post, you know he didn't get there by himself," Strickland said.