Wake County’s newly realigned Board of Commissioners is unanimous in party and diverse in person, ranging in age from 30 into their 70s.
As they took their oaths Monday afternoon, the four newly elected commissioners looked back on the paths that took them to an electoral sweep – but showed no political divisions as they unanimously chose the board’s new leadership and conducted a first meeting.
After her swearing-in, new member Jessica Holmes turned and marveled aloud before the crowd of elected officials, friends and family.
“I can’t thank you enough for believing in the rural country girl from Pender County who made it to UNC and thought Chapel Hill was the big city,” said Holmes, an education law attorney. “… Everything I am, moving forward, I give to Wake County. Today, I marry you.”
Holmes, 30, and Matt Calabria, 31, are the youngest of the new members. As a panel, they represent a county with a median age of about 35, roughly three years younger than the statewide median.
Calabria looked to his parents as he introduced himself and underscored a point that dominated the new commissioners’ campaigns.
“They have given me everything we need in life, in combination with good public school teachers,” said Calabria, a commercial litigation attorney.
The Democratic board made no secret of its mutual affection. Newly elected Sig Hutchinson linked his success to Betty Lou Ward, the board’s longest-tenured commissioner.
Sales consultant Hutchinson said the chance to sit next to his mentor of more than 20 years made Monday “the best day of my life.”
Commissioner John Burns, who stood with his wife and three children at his swearing-in, said he ran largely to guarantee the couple’s offspring good educations.
“This was the best opportunity I could see to make that happen,” said Burns, a financial and commercial attorney.
Monday also brought changes for sitting board members. Commissioner James West was unanimously elected chairman on Ward’s nomination, while Commissioner Caroline Sullivan became vice chair on Hutchinson’s nomination.
West, a former Raleigh councilman, was appointed to the board in 2010. He and Sullivan were elected in 2012.
“And now we have all seven commissioners here,” County Clerk Susan Banks said after the last seating and reshuffling.