Wake County

Fitzsimmons wants to be Wake Democratic Party chairman

Former Raleigh City Council candidate Brian Fitzsimmons hopes to lead the Wake County Democratic Party in the new year.

Fitzsimmons, the party’s first vice chairman, has announced that he’ll run for the seat. Current Chairman Dan Blue III – son of state Sen. Dan Blue Jr. – isn’t seeking another term.

“My commitment to this party is one of the best things I have ever found myself a part of, and that will continue no matter what,” Fitzsimmons, 32, wrote in a blog post titled “Just Win.”

The Wake County party played a big role in this year’s election, partnering with Sen. Kay Hagan’s campaign in a coordinated effort called Forward N.C. That’s a job normally played by the statewide party organization.

Fitzsimmons said the county party succeeded when it “brought together resources from races across Wake County under one pretty simple goal: just win.” Wake County was a rare bright spot for Democrats in the November election, with the party’s candidates defeating all four incumbent Republican county commissioners. And while she lost statewide, Hagan won a solid majority of votes in Wake.

The election for party chair takes place in the spring.

“I only announce this now so that I can begin to have substantive conversations with Democrats across Wake County about what we need to work on,” Fitzsimmons wrote.

Wake boards in sync

It’s turning into a lovefest between the new all-Democratic Wake County Board of Commissioners and the school board after years of tense dealings between the two bodies.

School board member Bill Fletcher said at a recent committee meeting that he’s excited that both boards share the same mindset on meeting the community’s education needs. He said they can work together to figure out some solutions.

“It’s not an us-against-them,” said Fletcher, the lone Republican on the school board. “It’s us together figuring out how we’re going to serve the people of the county well.”

School board member Jim Martin said, though, that while members of both boards “tend to be more of the same party” that what he hopes for “is not ‘Kumbaya’ but cooperation.”

At the last school board meeting, new commissioner Jessica Holmes reciprocated the warm feelings by repeatedly saying she was proud of the school board for giving support staff a $1,250 bonus. Holmes is an attorney for the N.C. Association of Educators, whose Wake County chapter had encouraged people to show up at the meeting to thank the school board.

“And know that you have a new board of Wake County commissioners that very much look forward to making sure all of our essential support personnel and educators feel valued,” Holmes said.

There’s no place like home

The Raleigh City Council is staying home this year for its annual planning retreat.

The council will meet all day on Jan. 29 at N.C. State University’s Hunt Library, then move the action to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences on Jan. 30. The agenda isn’t final yet, but it’s expected that affordable housing will be among the hot topics.

The inside-the-Beltline venues are a shift from last year, when the council planned a two-day trip to Wilmington. A few council members questioned whether $13,000 in travel expenses were worthwhile, but Mother Nature ultimately made the final call. A snowstorm forced city leaders to move the meeting to the Raleigh Convention Center.

The council considered mainly in-town venues this year, and Councilman Bonner Gaylord suggested the two-location approach. Councilman Russ Stephenson quipped that the plan will offer “a little tour of the city.”

Compiled by Colin Campbell and T. Keung Hui

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