Boards Picking Chairs Monday
Four incumbents and a newcomer may know, but they aren't saying who will be the next chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
That decision will be made when the board meets this afternoon (Monday).
The Moore County Board of Education is also scheduled to elect a new chairman today (Monday).
One incumbent county commissioner, Jimmy Melton, says he does not want the chairmanship but calls the other four good prospects. Three say they are willing to serve, and a fourth is noncommittal.
Commissioner Larry Caddell was the only one who hinted that he has an idea about the new chairman, but he was mum when it comes to naming names.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Commissioner Cindy Morgan said.
Commissioner Tim Lea said, "I have no idea who that person might be."
Commissioner-elect Nick Picerno said he does not know the answer and has not discussed the matter with any of the other board members. He is succeeding Chairman Colin McKenzie, who did not seek re-election this year. "That's the $64,000 question," Caddell said. "I can't tell. But I promise you it will be good. Most people are going to be pleased."
It wasn't clear whether he was saying that everyone is qualified to serve or whether he knows the answer but isn't saying.
Caddell said McKenzie will be missed because of his experience, knowledge and wisdom.
"Colin's been like a second father to me," he said.
Melton said any one of the other four board members would make a good chairman.
"But I'm not one of the four, and I would not accept if nominated," Melton said. "I have too much on my plate right now. I travel a lot. I just wouldn't be able to do it."
Each of the four has qualifications to serve as chairman.
Lea, who will be starting his second four-year term, has seniority and was considered for the chairmanship two years ago. In an informal caucus held prior to the December 2006 meeting, an agreement apparently was reached to give the chairmanship to McKenzie, who was the commissioner with the greatest seniority at the time.
That agreement apparently called for the chairmanship to shift to Lea when the board held its next election. But when the next vote came around, the agreement fell through and McKenzie was re-elected chairman.
That pre-meeting caucus two years ago was entirely legal under the state's Open Meetings Law, because three of the commissioners were newly-elected and had not yet taken the oath of office. However, the agreement, although reached during a legal gathering, carried no legal standing.
This time there is no way the commissioners can hold such a caucus, at least not legally. The law requires that any gathering of a quorum, in this case three commissioners, be open. It will take three votes to elect a chairman.
Lea said he has not been contacted by any of the others about the chairmanship, but that he would consider serving if nominated.
Morgan would not discuss a personal preference but said she would serve if nominated. She is starting the third year of her first term.
"We can move forward, no matter who we choose," she said. "If the commissioners want me to be chairman, I'll do what I can."
Picerno will be serving his first term on the board and local government boards rarely elect a newcomer to serve as chair. But in his case, he will be the only commissioner not tied down to business or other employment constraints.
A semi-retired businessman, Picerno will bring to the board a fresh outlook with no baggage left over from the past four years.
"I really don't know," said Picerno when asked about the new chairman.
Picerno said he has been working his way through "tons of legal documents" to learn his responsibility as a commissioner. Picerno said he admires the other four and regards each one as a good choice.
"They're passionate," he said. "They're smart, and they understand the issues. All four would be capable."
If nominated, Picerno said he would be willing to take the leadership role and said he does have time to devote to the job. He spends much of his time on church and community activities and in paying attention to his family, including three grandchildren.
"I like 'em all, and I could support 'em all," Picerno said of the four incumbents. "It will be a good job. Colin did a good job."
Picerno said the county will be under intense pressure to keep taxes low, meet needs and keep the local economy going. He said the board needs "a shot of caffeine" to keep up with all these issues.
"This is a big responsibility, and I take it seriously," Picerno said.
Three Have Experience
Three of the five have had experience as presiding officer of public bodies.
Caddell served 12 years as mayor of Carthage. Both Lea and Melton are former chairmen of the Moore County Planning Board. Lea also chaired the Land-Use Steering Committee in the 1990s and later chaired the school superintendent search committee.
Morgan has never chaired a local government body but is a former chair of the Sandhills Mental Health Area Board and is a former president of the Pinehurst Kiwanis Club.
Picerno founded Southern Software, a Southern Pines-based computer programming company. No longer involved in day-to-day operations of the firm, he does continue to serve as chairman of the board.
In addition to presiding at board meetings, the chair must spend more time on county business than the other commissioners. The chair attends more meetings, must respond to more questions and direct the focus of board activities, must confer more frequently with the staff and is the first person called in time of crisis -- after the county manager. The chair remains after meetings to sign documents attesting to business handled during the meetings, and his or her signature is affixed to hundreds of documents in a year's time.
Melton is the present vice chair. Caddell was vice chair the previous year.
Picerno and Lea, who was elected to his second term in November, will take the oath of office during a 4 p.m. ceremony in the courthouse Monday. After a reception honoring the two, the board will convene for its first meeting. At the top of the agenda will be election of a new chairman and a vice chairman.
The Moore County Board of Education will meet at 6 p.m. Monday. After four members who won election Nov. 4 are sworn in, the board will elect a chairman and vice chairman.
The current chairwoman, Dr. Lorna Clack, has declined to be nominated for a second term. She said last week that while she remains committed to serving on the board, she has family matters that will require more of her time.
"The chairman has lots of things to do and a lot more responsibilities," she said. "I've got sick relatives that mean a lot to me. I still want to serve and do all I can, but I have other responsibilities."
Clack declined to comment on who could succeed her. She did say she would make a recommendation on who should be the next chairman.
"I will be nominating someone, but that's all I will say right now," she said.
Board member Kathy Farren could be the front-runner to succeed Clack. She was re-elected to her second term on Nov. 4
The current board vice chairman, Dale Frye, is not expected to seek another term in that post.
Farren, Frye, Pamela Thomp-son, and the newly elected Laura Kite, are the only members who have not served as chairman in the past. With Frye's name potentially out of the mix, Farren, who was first elected in 2004, has the most experience of the group. Thomp-son was elected in 2006.
Farren was nominated for the chairmanship in late 2006, but lost to Bruce Cunningham in a 5-3 vote. She was then elected to serve as vice chairwoman for the year.
She declined to comment or speculate on the matter when contacted by The Pilot last week.
Clack, Farren, Cunningham, and Kite will be sworn in at a ceremony at the Moore County school system's central office. Kite replaces W. Joe Vaughn, who chose not to seek another term.
Clack and Cunningham both ran unopposed.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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