Wake County

A year ago, she resigned from this board. Now she’s leading it.

Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.
Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Jessica Holmes is the new chairwoman of the Wake County commissioners, becoming the fourth and youngest African-American woman to wield the gavel.

Holmes was elected to a one-year term as chairwoman after a unanimous vote of the seven-member board Monday.

When she was elected in 2014, Holmes became the youngest Wake commissioner in county history. She is now the only woman on the board and has been a vocal advocate for affordable housing and education.

A year ago, Holmes unexpectedly announced her resignation from the board but rescinded her decision the next day. She said she had planned to leave for a new job but outcry from constituents convinced her to stay.

Sig Hutchinson, who has served as chairman of the board for the past year, nominated Holmes to lead the commissioners. Hutchinson was elected Monday to serve as vice-chairman.

Holmes thanked Hutchinson for nominating her.

“Sometimes leaders lead from the front, and sometimes leaders lift up other leaders,” she said. “I thank you for that opportunity today, to allow me to lead this board.”

Holmes, who grew up in Pender County in Eastern North Carolina, is an education law attorney who received her undergraduate degree and her law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Lindy Brown, one of three African-American women to precede Holmes as the board chairwoman, was in the front row during the meeting Monday. The others were Elizabeth Cofield, the first African-American to serve as a Wake commissioner, and Linda Coleman, who plans to run for Congress next year in North Carolina’s second congressional district.

Brown called the moment “historic.”

“My colleagues know very well that it’s not often I'm speechless,” Holmes said. “But this is one of those times.”

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan