Farewell….for now

Published 10:46 am Monday, April 18, 2016

AHOSKIE – Not finished, just begun.

Accepting a ‘Resolution for Service’ in his honor, a bronze plaque, and the well-wishes of his fellow Ahoskie Town Council members, Maurice Vann formally stepped aside as one of the Council representatives of Ward-B during the regular monthly council meeting, Tuesday, April 12.

Vann was first elected to Council in 2008, fulfilling the term of his late brother, Larry “Cutt” Vann. He served in the administration of three Ahoskie mayors and nine other Council members.

Mayor Jimmie Rowe read the Resolution of Appreciation for Service which cited that Vann served “with diligence and with the best interests for all of the citizens of the Town of Ahoskie”.

Fellow Councilman Rev. C. David Stackhouse made a motion to approve the Resolution before Council, seconded by Councilman Justin Freeman.

Ahoskie Mayor Jimmie Rowe (left) presents a bronze plaque to outgoing Town Councilman Maurice Vann for his eight years of service to the town and the community. | Staff Photo by Gene Motley

Ahoskie Mayor Jimmie Rowe (left) presents a bronze plaque to outgoing Town Councilman Maurice Vann for his eight years of service to the town and the community. | Staff Photo by Gene Motley

“We have here a plaque for you and a certificate,” said Rowe, in presenting Vann with the bronze memento and a copy of the Resolution; after which, he went down the row of Council members accepting handshakes and very brief remarks of adulation and appreciation.

Later, Vann issued a statement through the News-Herald:

“During the eight years that I have served as a town councilman, I had the pleasure of working with great people in the Town of Ahoskie organization. Thank you for helping me with learning the ropes. I would like to especially thank a few people who took extra time to help me understand things that I have struggled with at times. It would be a long list to include everybody, but I would like to specifically name Evelyn Howard, Stephen Lassiter, Stewart White, Joleatha Chestnutt, Troy Fitzhugh, Benjamin James and all the Council members along with (Town Manager) Tony Hammond.

“It was never my intention to serve on community boards, but after my brother, “Cutt”, (passed away) while serving on the Ahoskie Town Council, you, the people, demanded that I take his place on the board. I took on this task without knowing if I could live up to the expectations that everyone had for my brother, which was scary to me.

“My family has always been all about serving and it was engrained in me at birth, especially from my grandmother (Odell Robinson) and mother (JoAnn Vann). The things they have instilled in me (are) what made this journey possible. I was always and will always be “Cutt’s little brother and JoAnn’s son” to most of you and that is perfectly fine with me. In my eyes, I was never councilman Vann, I was always just Maurice. While I was a councilman, I did not look at myself as a representative of just Ward B, but of the entire town.”

Vann closed his statement with a challenge to citizens to remain vigilant in their concern for civic government.

“One thing that I implore everybody to do is to get more involved with what is going on in our community and to take the initiative to step up to the task at hand so that you can be a part of the change that you want to see in our community. Yes, that means coming out to vote in local elections, but more than that, to be active in and aware of the direction our community is headed. One person that has a seat on a board cannot do it alone, so go to the meetings and educate yourself on how the town, county, and state operate. It is only going to be us that can change us.”

Vann, who briefly filed to challenge incumbent, and current Hertford County Board of Commissioners chairman, Ronald Gatling before withdrawing weeks ahead of the March primary, concluded by hinting that his foray in politics may not yet be done.

“I am leaving the door open for if the time comes to serve as an official, I pray that I will be here to fulfill your expectations as I hope I did in this run. I will continue to serve you in our community maybe not in an official position, but in some way that will make a difference in the lives of the people in our community.

“It’s been my pleasure to serve the citizens of Ahoskie and I want express my gratitude for the people that came out to vote for me in my elections. I had enormous support and overwhelming well wishes from the people.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you all,” Vann concluded.

On Jan. 15, the North Carolina Board of Elections ordered a new election for Vann’s incumbent Ward B seat that was contested in the November 2015 municipal election, and later ended in a protest filed by challenger Donald Kirkland.

The state Elections Board ruling found that Vann was in violation of the residency laws governing an election that is contested within a defined district or territory. The ruling also ordered the Hertford County Board of Elections to conduct a special filing period on Jan. 20-21 for that Council seat.

The ruling came after Kirkland filed an appeal with the State Elections Board. Kirkland, who was handily defeated by Vann in the November election, initially protested on Oct. 29 (just five days prior to the Nov. 3 election) to the Hertford County Board of Elections, claiming that Vann resided in Ward A and not Ward B.

Despite learning that Vann did indeed reside at 317 Maple Street, which is in Ward A, the Hertford County Board of Elections dismissed the protest on the grounds of no sustainable evidence as to any violation of the law, a decision that prompted Kirkland to file an appeal with the State Board of Elections in Raleigh; where, after listening to the evidence, the State Board overturned the county’s board ruling by finding that Vann resided in Ward A and threw out the results of the November election.

Charles Reynolds and Kirkland filed for the seat and Vann was disqualified from filing as a Ward B candidate. Reynolds went on to defeat Kirkland and was sworn in for his first term at Tuesday’s meeting.