Big shoes to fill

Published 8:24am Tuesday, October 8, 2013

GATESVILLE – At first, there was one important decision facing the Gates County Democratic Party (GCDP).

Now there are two.

The GCDP Executive Committee has scheduled a 7 p.m. meeting on Thursday, Oct. 10 in the Gates County Courthouse as they begin their effort to not only find a replacement for the late Commissioner John Hora, but one for the county’s Register of Deeds as well.

The current Register, Sharon Harrell, has submitted her resignation, citing health issues, according to County Manager Jon Mendenhall. Harrell was reelected last November to another four-year term. However, in a letter sent to Mendenhall on Sept. 27, the day prior to Hora’s death due to injuries suffered during a tragic vehicle accident, Harrell stated she would leave office effective Nov. 1.

“The meeting on Thursday in the courthouse is open to any Democrat in our county interested in either position,” Saunders said. “Each will have about three minutes to make their pitch to the committee as to the reasons why they are suited to hold either seat.”

There are restrictions. While the process is open to registered Democrats, those seeking Hora’s seat are required to reside in the same district he represented (Eure/Hall Township). For the Register of Deeds vacancy, legal adult citizens residing anywhere in the county, as long as they are registered Democrats, can apply.

While Saunders said the GCDP Executive Committee has 30 days in which to nominate two candidates and forward those names to the Board of Commissioners, he would rather perform this task sooner than later.

“We know we don’t have a whole lot of time, so we want to do this as quickly as possible,” he stated.

The GCDP Executive Committee is comprised of the entity’s chairman, the first, second and third vice chairman, the secretary and the treasurer along with the chairman and vice chairman of each of the county’s six voting precincts. Additionally, any county citizen currently holding a Gates County local government seat (elected as a Democrat) are considered members of the Executive Committee.

Those interested in making a bid for either of the open seats are urged to immediately contact Saunders at (252) 357-0075.

As administrative units of the State of North Carolina, vacancies in local elected offices are covered under various General Statutes. A vacancy in the elected office of County Commissioner is covered under GS 153A-27 (Vacancies on the board of commissioners). A vacancy in the elected office of Register of Deeds is covered under GS 161-5 (Vacancy in office).

Per those state statutes, in the particular cases in Gates County, the commissioners are not bound to accept the GCDP’s nomination to replace Hora. They are required to accept the GCDP’s recommendation to fill the Register of Deeds seat.

County Commission Vacancy

If a vacancy occurs on the board of commissioners, the remaining members of the board shall appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy.

If the member being replaced was serving a two-year term, or if the member was serving a four-year term and the vacancy occurs later than 60 days before the general election held after the first two years of the term, the appointment to fill the vacancy is for the remainder of the unexpired term. Otherwise, the term of the person appointed to fill the vacancy extends to the first Monday in December next following the first general election held more than 60 days after the day the vacancy occurs; at that general election, a person shall be elected to the seat vacated, either to the remainder of the unexpired term or, if the term has expired, to a full term.

To be eligible for appointment to fill a vacancy, a person must (i) be a member of the same political party as the member being replaced, if that member was elected as the nominee of a political party, and (ii) be a resident of the same district as the member being replaced, if the county is divided into electoral districts. The board of commissioners or the clerk of superior court, as the case may be, shall consult the county executive committee of the appropriate political party before filling a vacancy, but neither the board nor the clerk of the superior court is bound by the committee’s recommendation.

Register of Deeds Vacancy

When a vacancy occurs from any cause in the office of register of deeds, the board of county commissioners shall fill such vacancy by the appointment of a successor for the unexpired term, who shall qualify and give bond as required by law.

If the register of deeds was elected as the nominee of a political party, the board of county commissioners shall consult the county executive committee of that political party before filling the vacancy and shall appoint the person recommended by that committee, if the party makes a recommendation within 30 days of the occurrence of the vacancy.

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