Day of ‘Firsts’

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, December 3, 2008

GATESVILLE — It’s not often that a newly seated commissioner takes the oath of office and the board chairman’s seat in the same day. That scenario played out here Monday morning where first-year Gates County Commissioner Henry Jordan, fresh off his win in the November General Election, accepted the oath of office from Clerk of Court Nell Wiggins as well as the nomination for board chairman. The unprecedented move didn’t go unnoticed by one Gates County citizen. Speaking during the time set aside for public comments at the end of the three and one-half hour meeting, Ann Askew questioned Jordan on his abilities to lead a board as a rookie commissioner. Mrs. Askew, wife of Commissioner Wade Askew, asked Jordan what qualifications he had to serve as board chairman as well as asking if he had gone through any Institute of Government (IOG) training. Jordan answered by saying he has closely studied the IOG policies as well as having a strong leadership background professionally. “I was elected by the citizens to get this board straight,” said Jordan who replaced the retiring J.S. Pierce on the board. “As chairman I can provide leadership.” The events leading up to Jordan’s nomination and subsequent chairmanship were also questioned by Mrs. Askew. Following the oath of office given to Jordan along with fellow newly elected Commissioners Carlton Nickens and Graham Twine, board Vice-Chairman Kenneth Jernigan conducted the nomination process. Normally, that chore is handled by the Clerk to the Board or the County Manager (in some cases, the Board Attorney can handle those duties). When Jernigan called for nominations for chairman, Wade Askew started to say something prior to Nickens nominating Jordan, a move seconded by Jordan. Instead of calling for other nominations, the process abruptly ended at which time Jordan gained the votes to claim the chairman’s seat. After Jordan moved to the board’s lead chair, he opened the floor for nominations for vice-chairman. Twine nominated Jernigan, which Nickens offered a second. That nomination passed without objection. Mrs. Askew, again speaking during the public comments period, berated Nickens for being “loud” and “rude” by speaking over top of her husband during his attempt to make a nomination for chairman. Nickens said he did not hear Wade Askew attempting to make a nomination and offered an apology to both Askews if it appeared he was out of line.

After the meeting, Wade Askew told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that he was attempting to nominate Jernigan for the position of board chairman.