Twine earns chairman’s seat by split vote

Published 3:05 pm Thursday, December 10, 2009

GATESVILLE – Traditionally, the lead seat within local county government is reserved for a veteran politician.

For the second straight year, the Gates County Board of Commissioners have opted to break tradition.

By a split vote, Graham Twine was elected last week by his peers to serve as Chairman of the Gates County Board of Commissioners. Twine, a political newcomer, is just beginning the second year of his first-ever four-year term in office.

In regards to the election of board chairman, an annual event which occurs during the commissioners’ first meeting in December, Gates County Manager Toby Chappell opened the Dec. 2 and presided over the agenda until a leader was elected.

Chappell called for nominations. Commissioner Wade Askew offered Twine’s name followed by Commissioner Carlton Nickens placing Henry Jordan’s name into consideration.

Up until last week, Jordan served as the board chairman. He was voted into that position, without opposition, on the same day he was sworn-in as a newly-elected, first-time commissioner in December of last year.

The nominations were closed at that point and Chappell called for a vote in the order in which the two candidates were nominated. Askew along with Commissioner Kenneth Jernigan and Twine voted for Twine. Nickens and Jordan opted to retain Jordan as board chairman.

By virtue of the 3-2 majority, Twine took the lead seat at the board’s table.

Now as the chairman, Twine conducted the remainder of the meeting. His first order of business was to elect a board vice-chairman, a position held for the past several years by Jernigan.

Opening the floor for nominations, Nickens nominated Jordan for the position. Askew entered Jernigan’s name. The vote was again 3-2; Askew, Twine and Jernigan voting for the current vice-chairman while Nickens and Jordan opted for the former board chairman. That majority kept Jernigan seated as vice-chairman.

Later in the meeting, Gates County citizen Earl Rountree, an out-spoken critic of Jordan’s leadership, welcomed the change in chairmanship.

“Graham Twine has worked hard to get where he is today,” said Rountree, who was on the Dec. 2 agenda to provide an update on the aging Sunbury School. “He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.”

Twine responded by saying, “We, as a board, have plans for Gates County. For one, the wastewater project we’re already working on will encourage growth in our county. We will also continue to fight against the OLF (Outlying Landing Field proposed for Gates County by the U.S. Navy).”

The new chairman also addressed the county’s zoning ordinances.

“We’re tired of fighting the same problems over and over,” he stressed. “We, as a board, need to sit down and clean-up some of these ordinances.”

For Twine, his rise to the lead seat in county government came close to not unfolding.

The longtime resident of the Punch Bowl community near Hobbsville placed second to Paulette Britt in the May, 2008 Primary in a race for the District 5 Commissioner’s seat. Twine collected 815 votes compared to Britt being named on 897 ballots. However, neither mustered the mandated 40 percent of the vote in this three-person race (Mickey Lee placed third).

That set-up a June 24, 2008 runoff. There, Twine emerged with the majority vote, defeating Britt by a 505-457 count.

Thirteen days later (July 7, 2008), Twine was seated as a Gates County Commissioner under special circumstances. With the blessings of the Gates County Democratic Party and the NC Board of Elections, Twine took his seat to fill the void left by the April 25, 2008 death of longtime District 5 Commissioner L. Frank Rountree. Rountree, who was courageously battling cancer, had decided earlier in 2008 not to seek another term in office.

A 1975 graduate of Gates County High School, Twine is now the owner/operator of Energy Resources Contracting, LLC.