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Search begins for Bazemore’s replacement

WINDSOR – His seat sat empty, but his memory lives on.

As the Bertie County Board of Commissioners went about their normal duties here at Monday’s meeting, one of the items on their agenda was to honor the memory of the late J. Jasper Bazemore, a three-term incumbent commissioner who died Nov. 15, just 19 days shy of receiving the oath of office to begin his fourth, four-year term.

That now vacant seat also prompted the commissioners to officially launch an effort to find a replacement.

But first things first.

During the invocation, Rev. Vonner Horton of Oxley Hill Missionary Baptist Church said that although the Bertie Board of Commissioners now has a vacancy, heaven has welcomed a new board member.

“God, your good and faithful servant now has a place on the eternal board,” Rev. Vonner said in prayer. “His shoes have been hung in heaven, but before his labor ended in rest he left his footprints all over Bertie County.”

County Manager Zee Lamb then asked those in attendance to stand for a moment of silence in Bazemore’s memory.

Later in the meeting, the commissioners approved a resolution mourning Bazemore’s loss. Those words praised a life filled with wisdom and kindness as well as touting Bazemore’s 12-year effort to faithfully serve the citizens of Bertie County.

“Bertie County and its citizens have benefited from Mr. Bazemore’s knowledge, leadership and concern for his fellow citizens,” the resolution read in part. “His contributions will forever serve as an example of untiring and dedicated public service. (He) will be missed by all those whose lives he touched during his 81 years, especially the members of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners who saw him as a friend, mentor, peacemaker and leader.”

Rev. Horton, during the public comment period, asked the board to place someone in the vacant seat with the same character and integrity of Jasper Bazemore.

In regards to the vacant seat, the board approved a measure that called for Lamb to send a letter to the Bertie County Democratic Party, calling for that entity to forward a recommendation to the commissioners within 30 days.

The person recommended by the county’s Democratic Party must be a qualified registered Democrat (as was Bazemore) and live within the boundaries of Bazemore’s district – the Snakebite and Indian Woods voting precincts.

Upon receiving the recommendation, the four seated Bertie County Commissioners can accept or reject the name of the proposed replacement. If they reject the recommendation, the commissioners can themselves appoint an individual, pending they meet the aforementioned criteria.

Abiding by the law set forth in North Carolina State Statute 153A-27, if for any other reason the remaining members of the board do not fill a vacancy within 60 days after the day the vacancy occurs (which was Monday, Dec. 4), the clerk to the board shall immediately report the vacancy to the clerk of superior court of the county. The clerk of superior court shall, within 10 days after the day the vacancy is reported to him, fill the vacancy.

The statute further states that 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.

Citing 153A-27, State Board of Elections Executive Director Gary Bartlett said the approved appointee will serve only two years of Bazemore’s new four-year term. At the next election cycle (2008), a filing period will be declared open for Snakebite/Indian Woods district seat on the board of commissioners. The winner of the ensuing election will serve out the remaining two years (until 2010) of the term.