Odom, Portman for Wake commissioners

John Odom
John Odom scott sharpe

Odom in District 6

John Odom, who still owns two Meineke shops and served for a substantial time as the executive director of the Great Raleigh Merchants Association, represented District B covering northeastern Raleigh for five terms on the City Council. But he says he hasn’t had enough of public service, and after losing his council seat wants to represent essentially his old district, plus a few adjacent areas, on the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Odom, 69, a Republican, is our choice for this seat, but it should be said that his opponent, former Wake school principal Greg Ford, 43, is a thoughtful, progressive candidate with excellent experience in the school system that would be valuable when commissioners consider complicated and expanding school budgets.

However, Odom showed in his service on the Raleigh council that he can listen to all sides, and while he generally fell on the more conservative side on votes, he prided himself on not being utterly predictable and in fact, sometimes broke with fellow Republicans. Odom wants a seat now at the commissioners’ table, he says, because he thinks his experience could be helpful in guiding the county through continued growth and yes, he thinks citizens could benefit from having a conservative Republican at the table (the board’s now solidly Democratic).

Commissioners have been pretty responsible with the public purse, and the Democrats now in charge have listened to and worked with Wake school officials who are trying to maintain a good, even an excellent system, in face of budget challenges brought on by a lack of enthusiasm for public education in the General Assembly. That said, a plain-spoken, common-sense conservative like John Odom could be a valuable addition to this board — although we acknowledge that Greg Ford’s voice would be one of reason as well.

This time, though, we think John Odom is a good choice for this seat.

Portman in District 4

Democrat Erv Portman, 57, a Cary businessman, has been a Wake commissioner and a Cary Town Council member and seeks to return to the board representing a southern/central portion of the county. He is a partner with his wife in WestStar Precision, which makes products for the aerospace and medical fields. Portman would be comfortable with his pro-public education, pro-environmental protection, careful growth positions with the other progressives on the commissioners. He’s a smart, engaging person who seems open to the ideas of those who may disagree with him on some issues.

And Portman’s public service has been marked by his outreach to constituents, something he could be expected to continue as a commissioner.

Republican Kenn Gardner, 58, served from 2000-2008 as a Wake commissioner, and also has made an unsuccessful run for North Carolina secretary of state. Gardner’s a pretty mainstream conservative, a reasonable enough voice in debate. He’s an architect and lives in Raleigh. That he previously served multiple terms on the board may indicate he looked after constituents’ interests, which is good. But the current group of commissioners has momentum in terms of making Wake a more progressive, active, imaginative (bike trails, public transit) kind of place. We believe Portman would be inclined to be part of that movement.