Changing of the guard

Published 12:07 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017

WINDSOR – Lacking the contentiousness of a year ago, the vote for who will lead the Bertie County Board of Commissioners passed through at the December monthly meeting without a hitch.

At the Dec. 2016 meeting leadership election when a motion was made to essentially retain John Trent as chair and Ernestine Byrd Bazemore as vice-chair, both of whom were elected to the leadership post in Dec. 2015, Commissioner Ron Wesson objected at the time. Wesson cited a prior vote he believed he and his fellow Board members had taken to rotate the positions of Chairman and Vice Chairman. In 2015, Wesson had unsuccessfully sought a second term as chair for himself.

Upon the suggestion of both Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer and County Attorney Lloyd Smith to pull the recorded minutes and the audio recording from the meeting in question, it was shown that no record in the approved minutes could be found of such a vote for change ever being taken.  It was later believed that a ‘discussion’ of leadership changes amongst Board members is what actually had taken place, but not in open session.

Following a cooling down period at that meeting, the Commissioners approved the carryover of leadership from 2016 to 2017.

This year there would be a vote of change for 2018.

“Every December, the General Statutes require that every Board go through a re-organization process, and this afternoon we will receive nominations on the position of chairman, who will preside over the remainder of the meeting,” Sauer began. “I’d like to now open the nomination process.”

There was light laughter as Bazemore’s name was actually place in nomination, almost simultaneously, by both Trent and Wesson.

“It’s two-part harmony, I see,” joked Sauer, following which Commissioner Stewart White seconded the move for Bazemore’s nomination.

As there was no discussion, the vote was unanimous, 5-0, and following a word of congratulations, Trent passed the gavel to his successor.

Bazemore then called for nominations for Vice-chair and White moved to place Trent’s name in nomination, seconded by Commissioner Tammy Lee.

But there was another nomination as Bazemore placed Wesson’s name into the mix, seconded by Wesson.

Again, there was no discussion and the vote was 4-1 for Wesson, with White as the lone vote for Trent having been the one who placed his name in nomination.

“Ron Wesson is the new vice-chair,” announced Bazemore.

The proceedings were then followed by a short recess (five minutes) after which Commissioners made brief remarks.

Lee began by expressing thanks to Trent.

“I called him earlier to thank him personally, but I would just like to make it public,” Lee stated. “He’s spent a lot of hours, and most folks – including sometimes the four of us – have no clue (to how much). So, thank you, Mr. Trent, for your service.”

“I would like to echo that,” said White. “I want to thank John personally, and even Commissioner Wesson for the wonderful job he’d done my first year; it’s been a wonderful couple of years with the wonderful job he’s done.  I also want to congratulate Ernestine – Commissioner Bazemore; I call her Ernestine because we’re old classmates (Bertie High, Class of ’77). I want to thank all of you because it’s been a lot of good teamwork.”

White then mentioned several of his Board members’ contributions and sacrifices by name.

“I still think about Commissioner Byrd and Ron taking the pictures to Washington, DC to help with the flood victims, and I still can see Commissioner Trent standing on top of the (Bertie County) Courthouse overseeing (the renovations) … there’s a lot of positive things going on in this county, a lot of coming together, and one more thing: Merry Christmas, and I love you all from the bottom of my heart.”

Wesson prefaced his remarks by citing his own experience as chairman.

“It’s not an easy job, I know first-hand,” he acknowledged, “so I think under his (Trent’s) leadership we accomplished a whole lot. And I think we have some very, very strong years ahead of us as a Board. I look forward to Commissioner Bazemore’s leadership, working with her, supporting her agenda, and continuing to be a very progressive Board. We’ve got a lot of things, a lot of really good things, on our plate for this county, and I think as long as we continue to work together, to support one another, and look for insights from the citizens who we represent and make them a part of what we’re doing then everything will be fine. I look forward to serving as vice-chair and giving whatever support I can give to the chair and the rest of the Board. It’s a team effort, and that’s what we’ve got to count on.”

Trent kept his emotions out of his remarks, though one could sense that he was moved by the compliments.

“I want to thank Commissioner Bazemore for stepping up, and I appreciate your service as vice-chair,” he intoned. “I appreciate every single one of these Commissioners for what we’ve done and accomplished.  We have moved forward in this county and done a lot of good stuff; and there are still a lot of good things coming down the line. There’re a lot of things that are tied up, they’re done, and we’re waiting for them to land.  This transition comes at a good time for transition.   Thank you, Commissioners – and the people of Bertie County – for this opportunity.”

Bazemore closed the comment period with words of gratitude as well as faith in the future.

“Thank you for the honor of serving as chair,” she said. “I look forward to an exciting and productive year as your chairperson. We will continue to build as well as we’ve done in the past.”

The comments and platitudes completed, the Board moved on to the regular agenda. Later, during the discussion period, and with the recommendation of the County Manager, the Commissioners opted to void the idea of cancelling the Dec. 18 meeting due to the Christmas holiday.  Instead, they will meet in the Commissioner’s Room on that date as regularly scheduled.