01/05/13 — Cromartie nominated by Democrats to replace Evans

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Cromartie nominated by Democrats to replace Evans

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 5, 2013 10:40 PM

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Ed Cromartie

Despite the non-binding nature of its nomination, the Wayne County Democratic Party nonetheless put forward Ed Cromartie as its choice to replace the late J.D. Evans on the county Board of Commissioners.

In a vote held Friday, Cromartie, a retired educator and member of the Mount Olive town board, was unanimously tapped by the party's executive committee as its choice to serve the first two years of Evans' unexpired term.

Cromartie, 66, who also serves on the Wayne County Planning Board, was elected in May to Mount Olive's District 1 seat, which had been held by Republican Kenny Talton who lost his challenge to Evans.

Cromartie said was he, "pleased and proud," at being nominated.

"That speaks to the confidence that people have that I will do the best job that I can," he said. "I am a person who carefully weighs everything that I do. One thing that I know how to do, I know how to listen. I worked under five (schools) superintendents so I am accustomed to listening.

"I supervised the vocation program in the county and city for 12 years, so I am accustomed to working with people of various backgrounds. What I bring to the table is that I think I know how to get along with people and to be able to understand their points of view if they differ from mine. I like to think I bring to the table the ability to see the other side of an issue and discuss those, and to try to come out with the best answer to better serve the greater group -- and that is the whole county, every citizen."

However, the final decision on the appointment belongs to the county commissioners who do not have to approve the party's recommendation.

It will be the second time in just over two years that the commission will have to replace one of its members. District 1 Commissioner Andy Anderson, a Republican, recommended his own replacement when he stepped down in November 2011.

The board, then controlled by Democrats, appointed Ray Mayo, Anderson's and the GOP's choice, without challenge. Republicans now enjoy a 5-2 board majority.

"We are 100 percent behind him and we hope county commissioners will be, too," said Wayne County Democratic Party Chairman Stephanie Kornegay. "It was a unanimous vote -- his background and his involvement in the community already, the types of committees that he has been on.

"Plus we are looking for some representation in the Mount Olive-Dudley area. The fact that he is already in the loop being on the city council in Mount Olive is a plus. I do hope that we can get this moving so we can get someone representing District 2."

The appointment is not on commissioners' Tuesday agenda.

However, Ms. Kornegay said she is hopeful it can still be added. The state's Open Meetings Law requires that all board discussions about the appointment, and the vote, be done in open session.

"The committee believes that the district needs some representation as soon as possible," she said. "There are so many things happening. It would be great to have somebody in there as soon as possible as they can do it."

Ms. Kornegay added that she has told commission Chairman Steve Keen about the committee's choice.

The only requirements commissioners must adhere to are that their appointment be a Democrat and reside in District 2. While District 2 is one of the county's two minority districts there is no requirement that the person appointed is a minority.

Evans, who easily won re-election in November, died Dec. 18, just two weeks after taking the oath of office.

Since the vacancy occurred within the first two years of Evans' new four-year term, whoever is appointed will serve two years. They would then have to run in a special election in 2014.

"My intention is to serve these two and then run for election," Cromartie said. "But that is if I have done a good enough job for the people to want me to run. To me, it is going to be contingent on how I feel that I have done. I am not the kind of person to stay somewhere just for the sake of staying somewhere. I believe in letting your work speak for you."

If appointed, Cromartie would become the first Mount Olive resident to serve on the county commission since the 1980s when current Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. was elected prior to the creation of voting districts.

Until last year, Mount Olive was split fairly evenly between Districts 2 and 4. Redistricting brought most of the town, including Cromartie's home, into District 2.

A native of Cumberland County, Cromartie and his wife, Hilda, also a retired educator, have lived in Mount Olive since 1986.

He worked with and was friends with Evans. It was that friendship that helped nurture his interest in politics, said Cromartie. When Evens underwent eye surgery, Cromartie drove him to various events, including commissioners' meetings.

In the 1990s, Cromartie was a member of the Economic Development Commission. It was Evans who suggested that Cromartie serve on the county Planning Board.

"It was a good eye-opener for things that happen around the county and that had to be looked at," he said. "I have enjoyed doing that. I have always been interested in government and government operations. I am a history major so I have always been interested in what happens from a governmental standpoint. I always read the county commissioners' section.

"I guess serving on the Planning Board enhanced my interest in that level of working countywide."

At some point it became apparent that Evans might not be able to serve, Cromartie said.

Cromartie said he could not recall who first suggested that he serve. He said people asked him if he was interested and he told them he would think about it, Cromartie said.

Cromartie said he had recently spoken with Evans' widow, Shirley.

"She said, 'Ed, J.D. said that if he turned out not being well enough to serve his term that he would like for you to do it, if you wanted,'" Cromartie said.