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Several Dems may seek to succeed Parker

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Bettie Parker

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, October 13, 2017

Several county residents have already expressed interest in replacing Mayor-elect Bettie Parker on the Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners, county Democratic Party Chairwoman Treva Gregory said Thursday.

She declined to share any names yet, but said the Pasquotank Democratic Party’s executive committee, which includes more than 20 members, will be deciding on a nominee to replace Parker within the next few weeks.

Pasquotank commissioners will ultimately decide who to appoint to the seat, subject to some requirements, but state law requires they consult with the political party of the person who previously held the seat. Parker, who elected Elizabeth City’s mayor on Tuesday, is a registered Democrat.

Parker, who holds one of three at-large seats on the Board of Commissioners, will be sworn in, along with councilors-elect were elected on Tuesday, on Dec. 11. By becoming mayor, Parker will have to vacate her seat on the board of commissioners.

State law provides that commissioners must appoint someone of the same party as Parker, and that they must do so within 60 days. If they fail to do so, the statute provides, the county’s clerk of superior court will appoint someone.

The statute also provides that the appointee shall complete the remaining year of Parker’s term. Had the vacancy occurred at least two months before the general election in the first two years of her term, that general election would’ve determined who held the seat through 2018.

In an interview Wednesday, Parker said she doesn’t know yet who hopes to replace her, but hopes it will be someone who is fair-minded and concerned about the county’s issues, including supporting public education. Parker is a retired math teacher at Northeastern High School.

Parker, only one of two African Americans on the board and its only female member, said she would like to see diversity maintained on the board — it makes people feel better represented, she said. Parker said she hoped to see an African American replace her. Asked if she wanted an African-American woman to replace her, she said that was her “slight preference but not priority.”

Cecil Perry, the board’s only other African American, similarly said he hoped to see commissioners appoint an African American to replace Parker. African Americans make up almost half the county’s population, he said.

Perry also said he hoped to see someone replace Parker who’s “reached the entire county.” Parker had touched many lives throughout the county as a long-time teacher, Perry noted.

Commissioners were debating the need for more diversity on the board of commissioners around the time Parker ran for office in 2014. 

Pasquotank board Vice Chairman Bill Sterritt, a Democrat, said it’d be nice to maintain diversity on the board, but “if you had a talented person (willing to serve), you shouldn’t be concerned about skin color.” He also said he hoped commissioners would appoint someone committed to running for Parker’s seat and serving the county for a four-year term.

As for potential appointees, Sterritt said Parker’s campaign manager, Debra Sheard, might be a good choice, as might two candidates for city council who didn’t win Tuesday: Frank Caruso or Jason Gillis.

State law, however, would make it difficult for either Caruso or Gillis to be appointed to the seat based on their current political registration. The law requires the appointee to be someone from both the same party and district as the person who previously held the seat. Parker was elected to an at-large seat — meaning presumably any Pasquotank resident would meet the residency requirement. Only Sheard, however, is a registered Democrat. Voter registration records show Caruso is an unaffiliated voter, while Gillis is a Libertarian.

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