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Familiar faces vie for Council

AHOSKIE – The list of applicants for the vacant Ward B seat on the Ahoskie Town Council is identical to the November, 2007 General Election ballot.

The lone difference is the outcome will not be determined by the voters.

On Tuesday of next week, the seated four members of the Ahoskie Town Council are expected to reach a decision on who will fill the remaining board position, one left vacant after an error in residency requirements disqualified Maurice Vann, who defeated incumbent Ward B Councilman C.R. Askew in November’s election.

Vann and Askew were the only two to submit applications, as required by Dec. 31, for the vacant seat. Since the unique scenario that led to Vann’s disqualification in November, he has established residency on Malibu Drive, which is within the Ward B boundaries. Because the effective date of that change came on Dec. 5, he has also fulfilled the state’s requirement to maintain residency for a minimum of 30 days before being elected or appointed to public office.

It was during the mandated canvass of each Hertford County polling place, performed one week following the Nov. 6 election, that Hertford County Elections officials discovered that Vann actually lived in Ward A.

Elections Director Shelia Privott said it was a human error as both Vann and the board of elections believed the candidate resided in Ward B. The line dividing the two wards is a block away from Vann’s former residence.

Elections law prevented Askew from winning the November race by default. However, he, like any other registered voter residing in Ward B, had the right to apply for the vacant seat.

Ironically, that same seat once belonged to Larry “Cutt” Vann, the brother of Maurice Vann. Larry Vann was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in October of 2005. Ahoskie Town Council members chose Askew to fill Larry Vann’s unexpired term, one which ended in December.

In a special called meeting Thursday evening, the current four members of the Ahoskie Town Council heard from the two applicants. Also attending the meeting were three other Ahoskie officials, Mayor Linda Blackburn, Town Manager Tony Hammond and Assistant Town Manager/Town Clerk Evelyn Howard.

The session was very brief and informal.

Vann proclaimed he was “not a puppet” and would be a council member that didn’t mind voicing his concerns and his perspectives.

“I’ve gotten along with people from all different walks of life,” Vann said.

When asked what he saw as future opportunities for the town, Vann replied, “Bridging the generation gap and bringing the town together to move forward. I want others to see Ahoskie as a place they want to live for the rest of their lives.”

Vann asked council members what was expected of him.

“The main thing you need to bring to this position is common sense,” Councilman Ronald Gatling said.

“It’s a learning process,” Councilwoman Elaine Myers noted. “It’s something new every month, so you must be prepared (to deal with that).”

“You must keep an open mind, look at the facts and make sound decisions,” said Councilman Malcolm Copeland.

Due to his recent status as an elected official, neither the council nor Askew became involved in a discussion of qualifications. Askew did mention that he would like to rejoin the council in an effort to see through the impending wastewater treatment plant improvement project.

“That’s my main goal,” Askew said of the $15 million project. “I have a desire to continue to serve the citizens of Ahoskie.”

Since the new term for this particular Ward B seat began officially began last month, the person appointed by the Ahoskie Town Council is eligible serve a full four years.