The Archer Lodge Town Council appears poised to appoint its first female member.
The resignation of Carlton Vinson last month left a vacancy on the council of North Carolina’s youngest town. Last week, the remaining councilmen nominated two candidates to fill the seat, Debbie Barnes and Teresa Bruton. The council will make its choice next month.
Barnes was the odd candidate out of last year’s town election, finishing fourth among four candidates, with the top three elected to the council. In her run, she collected 97 votes, and last Monday, Councilman Mark Wilson argued that appointing Barnes was the closest the sitting council could come to doing the will of the people.
“Those votes should not be overlooked,” Wilson said.
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At a meeting last month, as the council debated how to fill Vinson’s seat, Wilson lobbied for Barnes on the merits that she was the next-highest vote-getter in the last election. The council instead decided it would accept nominations from its members and then vote on an appointment from those nominated. This is the same process used two years ago when Councilman Mark Jackson replaced Jeff Barnes.
Wilson said Barnes was not only the next in line, according to the last election, but also well qualified to help the town meet its current needs.
“Her background and experience are such, her education, would lend itself and enhance the council,” Wilson said. “She has a background in finance and budget for the state, which would be good for us in this moment since the vacant seat was previously the budget director for the town. Ms. Barnes would come well qualified for the seat.”
Bruton is chairwoman of the town’s planning board and has been since just after the town’s incorporation. Councilman Matt Mulhollem nominated Bruton, highlighting her experience as a professional engineer with N.C. Department of Transportation and her role in crafting the town’s ordinances.
“She is intimately familiar with our ordinances, in having had a leadership role in forming them,” Mulhollem said. “I think she is a very capable leader and would be a fine addition to this council.”
Either Bruton or Barnes will mark a historic moment for Archer Lodge and will bring rare diversity to a Johnston County governing body. Currently, out of 64 elected town officials, only six are women.