12/04/13 — Power shift: County commissioner elect new leaders

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Power shift: County commissioner elect new leaders

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 4, 2013 1:46 PM

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Former Wayne County Commissioner Chairman Steve Keen, left, and newly elected Chairman Wayne Aycock cast their votes during Tuesday's commissioners' meeting.

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Newly elected Wayne County Commission Vice Chairman Edward Cromartie listens during Tuesday's commission meeting.

For what is likely the first time in Wayne County's history, Republicans and Democrats share the leadership of the county Board of Commissioners.

Republican Wayne Aycock was elected as chairman and Democrat Ed Cromartie as vice chairman Tuesday.

A year ago, Republicans gained a majority of seats on the board for the first time since Reconstruction.

But on Tuesday, two Republicans -- Aycock and Joe Daughtery -- joined with the board's two Democrats -- Cromartie and John Bell -- to elect the new leaders.

Aycock and Cromartie said the vote was not a reflection on the board's leadership over the past year. They declined comment on any private discussions leading up to the votes.

Over the past several months, Aycock and Daughtery expressed concerns that past Chairman Steve Keen was bringing up issues to be decided without any prior discussion.

During Tuesday's meeting Daughtery asked County Attorney Borden Parker to inform commissioners and the public about the specific duties and powers of the chairman and vice chairman, as well as those of individual commissioners.

"I think that I, for one, need to know that. I think a number of people need to know that. I am hoping that you can kind of enlighten us in regards as to what those specific duties are," Daughtery said.

At the start of the discussion, Commissioner Bill Pate, a Republican, nominated past Vice Chairman Ray Mayo, also a Republican, to become the new chairman. While not legally required, the tradition has been that the vice chairman moves up to serve as chairman.

Daughtery tried to nominate Aycock, but Keen sought to cut off other nominations by making a motion to close the nominations.

The motion failed 4-3 with Daughtery, Aycock, Bell and Cromartie voting against it.

Keen then nominated Daughtery for chairman. Daughtery then nominated Aycock.

Aycock, Bell, Cromartie and Daughtery voted for Aycock.

Keen, Mayo and Pate voted for Mayo.

No votes were cast for Daughtery.

In his first action as chairman, Aycock opened the floor for nominations for vice chairman.

Mayo nominated Daughtery and Bell nominated Cromartie.

Keen's motion to close the nominations was unanimously approved.

Cromartie, Bell, Aycock and Daughtery voted for Cromartie. Keen, Pate and Mayo voted for Daughtery.

"We are looking forward to next year," Aycock said after the meeting. "Mr. Cromartie and I, we are going to move forward. We have made great progress in the past year and we are going to do the same thing in this coming year. We have several big issues that we are close to nailing down. I think we are real close to the communications system, where can hopefully have it straightened out in the months to come.

"We are real close on having the payroll system taken care of. We are just looking forward to moving forward. This is a seven-member board and we are going to move forward as a board."

Aycock called his election a "very humbling experience."

"I think we made a giant step forward today in nonpartisan strength on this board," he said. "We have voted unanimously on a lot of issues in the past year since I have been on the board. There have been issues that we did not pass unanimously and the same thing is going to happen in the coming year. But I think we showed a great step forward in bipartisan duties of the county commissioners.

"I think this a step that we needed to take. The actions of the board in the past year, I support 100 percent. This had nothing to do with what had been done in the past. This is something that needed to be done for Wayne County. It probably should have been done in the past, never was."

Cromartie agreed.

"This is not reflecting on last year," he said. "I just say I am proud to have been selected as vice chair. I am here to support Mr. Aycock as his vice chairperson. Our attorney spelled out some things the chairman must do and talked about some of the limitations on what the chairman and any one person can do because it reflects on what the board as a whole can do."

Daughtery called the choice of bipartisan leadership a milestone for the county.

"We acknowledge the fact that while we may differ on political philosophies, together we can and must find common ground to move Wayne County to new heights," he said.

"Although we may disagree on the issues brought before us, it is my sincere hope that this board will respect our fellow board members and work harder to be inclusive on all matters involving board action."

"It has been a pleasure for me to serve as vice chair under Commissioner Keen," Mayo said. "It has been a hard road and we have accomplished a lot as a commission board."

Mayo said he was not disappointed with the result of the vote.

"I am still a commissioner," he said. "What I am saying is that there is politics involved, but I never ran on that issue of having politics come into play."