Webb yields seat to old pal

West switching to Wake board

STAFF WRITERSeptember 15, 2010 

— They have been Democratic teammates for decades, and on Tuesday veteran Raleigh City Council member James West took the hand off from resigning Wake Board of Commissioners member Harold Webb.

Webb, 85, stepped down from the board last week. The timing of the decision gave the Wake Democratic party's executive committee the opportunity to nominate a candidate to serve out Webb's term, which ends in 2012. The board of commissioners, which has a 4-3 Democratic majority, will vote Monday on whether to confirm six-term council member West, 66, who has served as mayor pro tem since 2003.

"I am almost overwhelmed as I think about the responsibility and the crossroads we are on in this particular county," West said upon receiving the nomination by Webb and Mayor Charles Meeker.

In a brief acceptance speech, West raised issues including growth, jobs and recent actions by the Wake County school board, which has voted to discard a longstanding policy of diversity-based school assignment in favor of community-based zones.

"We have a world-class school system compared to other school systems throughout the country," Webb said. "We certainly don't want to see the school system dismantled."

Before the meeting formally started, Webb, who has spent decades as party stalwart and elected official, won a standing ovation from the more than 160 people in attendance. West said he and Webb, who had a stroke last year, have worked together on projects that include the city's convention center, Southeast Raleigh concerns and aid to Shaw University.

"You name it, he's been there," West said.

West's nomination will be presented to the board of commissioners on Monday. If they confirm him, the City Council will declare his seat open on Tuesday and ask for letters from anyone interested in serving in West's place. The council could act on a replacement at its first or second meeting in October, Meeker said.

Democrats also elected attorney Mack Paul to replace county chairman Jack Nichols, who stepped down because he is running for a Wake Board of Commissioners seat held by Republican incumbent Paul Coble. Mack Paul was nominated by Eugene Weeks, a former Broughton High School teacher whom party leaders have called a likely successor to West on the City Council.

Weeks said Tuesday night he is interested in the post.

Ray Martin contributed to this story.

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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