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At least 2 vying to replace Parker

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Bettie Parker

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, December 4, 2017

At least two people are actively vying to replace Elizabeth City Mayor-elect Bettie Parker on the Pasquotank Board of Commissioners, one a former county commissioner, the other the manager for Parker’s successful campaign.

Charles Jordan and Debra Sheard both said in interviews last week they've asked to be appointed to serve the remaining year of Parker's term as an at-large county commissioner. Parker, who was elected Elizabeth City's next mayor in October, must resign from the Board of Commissioners once she takes the oath of her new office on Dec. 11.

Because Parker is a Democrat, state law requires the Pasquotank Democratic Party to nominate another Democrat to complete her four-year term. County commissioners must then formally approve the party’s choice for he or she to take office. 

State law al­lows com­mis­sion­ers to ap­point some­one, rather than wait for an elec­tion, be­cause Parker’s term is mostly com­plete. The ap­point­ment must hap­pen within 60 days of Parker’s seat be­com­ing va­cant.

How many peo­ple are in­ter­ested in re­plac­ing Parker on the com­mis­sion board is un­clear. Pasquotank Demo­cratic Party Chair­woman Treva Gre­gory did not re­turn calls seek­ing com­ment last week.

How­ever, Board of Com­mis­sion­ers Chair­man Ce­cil Perry, Com­mis­sioner Jeff Dixon and Parker shared the names of per­sons they’ve heard are in­ter­ested in completing Parker’s term. Two names they’ve heard are Jordan’s and Sheard’s, they said.

If Jordan gets the appointment, it wouldn't be the first time.

Commissioners in fact appointed Jordan in 2010 to finish the unexpired term of Jimmie Harris, who had passed away earlier that year. Jordan subsequently ran for a full term on the board, but lost in the Democratic primary.

“I've served before and thought I might be of service,” Jordan, 73, said when asked why he’s interested in replacing Parker. 

Jordan said he's remained active in county government. He's chairman of the Pasquotank County Library — he and other library officials successfully lobbied commissioners this year for a new bookmobile — and also serves on the county's planning commission. Jordan also noted he's been appointed to the committee charged with visiting nursing homes to check on the safety and welfare of residents.

Asked about his priorities if appointed, Jordan said he'd need to get on the board and learn more about all the issues first.

Sheard, 66, is a retired regional ombudsman for the Albemarle Commission's Area Agency on Aging, as well as a former administrative assistant for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools. Notably, she managed Parker's successful mayoral campaign this year. 

Though she has not held elected office before, Sheard said she’s seeking the appointment to Parker’s seat because she feels her skills would help her respond to county residents' concerns. She heard many of those concerns while serving as Parker's campaign manager, she said. 

As a regional ombudsman for the Area Agency on Aging from 2001-15, Sheard said she strove to find and fix problems faced by residents receiving long-term care. Things that seem small are very important to them, she said. For example, a nursing home serving slightly expired milk is a risk to people with poor immune systems, and dementia patients need the comfort of regular hair care and other routines, she said.

Sheard said she's used to serving the public and wisely spending its money. At the Albemarle Commission, she had to stretch small budgets to serve 10 counties, she said.

Commissioners interviewed last week said Jordan and Sheard aren't the only names circulating as Parker's replacement.

Anthony Sharp, a former aviation professor at Elizabeth City State University and a current member of the city-county Community Relations Commission, is also seeking the seat, according to Dixon.

Sharp did not return calls seeking comment last week.

Additionally, Parker's predecessor isn't ruling out seeking to return to the board.

Gary White, whom Parker defeated in the 2014 Democratic primary, said no one's approached him for the seat, but he would be willing to serve again. White also said he's considering running for another four-year term. There are still some issues he wants to work on, he said, including improving “continuity” between the city and county.

White also noted he served on the board during several important initiatives, including lease of what's now Sentara Albemarle Medical Center and permitting for the now-operational Amazon Wind Farm US East. White added he considers the wind farm a strong benefit to the county.

White could face some resistance as the appointee, however. Both Perry and Parker, the board's only African Americans, have said they feel it's important for Parker to be replaced by another African American. White is white, while Jordan and Sheard are black. It's important the board reflect the county's diversity, Perry and Parker have said.

Though stating a general preference for an African American to replace her on the board, Parker has said she's staying out of the process to replace her, so as to avoid appearances of unduly influencing it.

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