Politics & Government

West re-elected Wake commissioners chair, Hutchinson becomes vice chair

Wake County Commissioner James West for District 5.
Wake County Commissioner James West for District 5.

James West of Raleigh will continue to lead the Wake County Board of Commissioners as he campaigns to remain in office next fall.

In a 5-3 vote this week, commissioners appointed West as chairman of the board for the second year in a row.

“I’m honored, and I feel that we have a lot of work to do in terms of continuity, transportation and school board needs,” West said. “This provides stability.”

Five seats, including two from newly-created districts, are up for election next fall. West, who represents District 5, is one of two incumbents seeking reelection. Caroline Sullivan, who represents southwestern Wake in District 4, is also seeking re-election but in one of the new districts.

The only other incumbent whose seat is up for election, Betty Lou Ward, will not seek another term.

Ward has served on the board since 1988 and sought to lead it during her final year. She garnered support from commissioners Sig Hutchinson and Jessica Holmes.

Holmes said she voted for Ward out of respect for her years of service, while Hutchinson did so because they’ve been friends for years.

West said he wasn’t bothered by dissenting votes.

“We’re still trying to bond and develop trust relationships and maintain stability,” he said. “It will not affect my work relationship with anyone.”

For vice chair, commissioners voiced unanimous support for Hutchinson, a boisterous advocate for bringing an expanded transit system to Wake County. He replaces Sullivan in a year when the board is expected to ask voters to approve a tax increase for transit.

Rao not running for lt. governor

Morrisville Town Council member Steve Rao had been considering a run for lieutenant governor in 2016 but has decided to stay on the town board.

Rao recently told his colleagues he will remain on the council until at least the end of his current term in 2017. Tuesday, the council voted him the mayor pro tem with a 6-1 vote. TJ Cawley cast the only no vote.

Morrisville’s swearing-in ceremony was well attended, with more than 130 people in the standing-room-only audience that spilled out of the council chambers into the hallway. Many were from the local Indian-American community, who came to watch as Morrisville administered the oath of office to Satish Garimella, the Triangle’s second Indian-American elected official. Rao was the first.

Garimella was sworn in on the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture.

“This is really a humbling experience for me, honestly,” he said. “As you all know I grew up in India, so from the streets of Mumbai to the streets of Morrisville. ... I promise that I will give this honor my very best.”

A Cary mayor pro tem who isn’t Smith

Cary council member Jack Smith has been mayor pro tem for every Cary mayor since the late 1980s. But this week, Smith decided it was time for someone else to hold the position.

“Due to the growth of my new business, this September I missed my first council meeting in eight years and only the fourth one in 26 years,” Smith said.

He said being a mayor pro tem requires having a flexible schedule, and he nominated Ed Yerha for the role. Yerha was approved in a 6-1 vote. Ken George, who was sworn in as a new council member that night, voted against the nomination.

Commissioners hold steady in Durham

Durham Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to retain Michael Page as chair, and Brenda Howerton as the vice-chair of the five-member board.

Political events

▪ A representative from Citizens Climate Lobby, a non- profit, non-partisan organization that advocates for federal legislation to put a tax on fossil fuels to control carbon dioxide emissions, will speak to the Wake Senior Democrats on Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the Crabtree Marriott in Raleigh. The meeting starts at 11 a.m. with lunch followed by the program at 11:30 a.m.

Compiled by Paul A. Specht, Will Doran, Kathryn Trogdon and Virginia Bridges.

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