07/23/10 — Commission picks Henderson for seat

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Commission picks Henderson for seat

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 23, 2010 1:46 PM

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Len Henderson

Len Henderson of Dudley by a 5-2 vote Friday morning was appointed to fill the District 2 school board seat left vacant since June 30 when longtime board member Shirley Sims stepped down.

Wayne is the only county in the state that gives its commissioners that power. The appointment authority is a holdover from the merger of the Goldsboro city and county schools systems.

Henderson was surrounded by friends and supporters after the meeting adjourned. He and the two other candidates, Ven Faulk and Dr. Dwight Cannon, shook hands.

Henderson said that while he was pleased with the appointment, that he had been surprised that it was him. He agreed that the committee and commissioners had faced a difficult decision.

He said he is looking forward to completing Ms. Sims' term which runs trough 2012. The school board's next meeting is Aug. 9.

Commission Chairman Jack Best said the committee's task would have been easier if discussion about the candidates for the job had it not had to be held in public.

Best said all of the selection committee meetings had been open, but that looking back, suggested that Thursday's review of the candidates and their interviews should have been conducted in closed session.

He called for a change in the state law that requires meetings of this nature to be open to the public.

Henderson's appointment came just moments after Henderson told commissioners it was not a vote they should take lightly. He also suggested that County Attorney Borden Parker review with them the reason for creating minority districts and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

He said the decision should be based on the best interest of the children and the county and more importantly District 2.

"This decision should not be a political decision, but from what I have seen, I believe that it might be just that," he said. "This decision should not be based on individual dislikes or likes of particular candidates or whether this board can generate votes for a particular candidate. Finally, let me say that I know there has been a lot of backroom maneuvering and political posturing in this situation."

Henderson and the two other recommended nominees, Faulk and Cannon, were given five minutes to address the board.

Afterwards, District 2 Commissioner J.D. Evans made the motion to appoint Henderson.

Commissioner Andy Anderson asked Parker if the board could make other nominations.

Parker said there was a motion on the table that had to be voted on -- but offered the option that it could be amended.

Anderson then offered a motion to amend Evans' motion and to appoint Faulk to the seat.

Anderson, who served on the selection committee with Best, said the committee had faced a difficult decision because it had four good candidates.

He said he nominated Faulk because he felt Faulk was more in touch with what is going on in the county schools. He said that had given Faulk a "slight edge" in his considerations.

Prior to the vote, Commissioner Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Wayne County Public Schools, asked Parker if she could vote.

Parker told her there was no conflict of interest, and that the law required her to vote.

Anderson's motion failed 4-3.

Steve Keen voted for Faulk. Best did not vote -- which under procedure was counted as a yes.

Best said he had promised to vote with the majority and cast a "yes" vote for Henderson.

Commissioner Bud Gray also did not vote -- which required his non-vote to be a "yes" vote as well.

Henderson is a graduate of Southern Wayne High School and received a bachelor's degree in Spanish from North Carolina Central University and a master's degree in health services administration from Central Michigan University (Cherry Hospital cohort program).

He has taught in the public schools and at O'Berry Center. He worked at Cherry Hospital and retired from his job as staff development director in 2003.

Henderson is a past president, first vice president and second vice president of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. He and his wife, Paula Renee, have two children and three grandchildren.

Serving on the committee with Best, who appointed the committee, were Jimmy Williams of Mount Olive, a former superintendent for the county's public schools; Paul Smalley, a former Mount Olive town commissioner; Thelma Smith, vice chairman of the school board; Andy Anderson of Pikeville, senior member of the Wayne County commissioners; Jim Parker, a former school board member; Shirley Bond, a retired educator; and Robyn Wade, a radio announcer.