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Council rejects Stimatz for airport board

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, June 2, 2018

El­iz­a­beth City City Coun­cil this week de­nied a for­mer col­league’s reap­point­ment to the El­iz­a­beth City Re­gional Air­port’s gov­ern­ing board — ap­par­ently in large part be­cause he’s cam­paigned against and crit­i­cized some mem­bers of coun­cil in the past.

During Tuesday's regular session, Mayor Bettie Parker sought to reappoint former 2nd Ward Councilman Tony Stimatz to another two-year term on the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Airport Authority.

Stimatz, currently the authority's secretary, was first appointed to the airport board in 2012. Though he lost re-election to council last year, his term on the authority doesn't expire until June 30.

Parker explained Stimatz was willing to continue to serve on the Airport Authority, and she didn't consider current city councilors for the post “because your plates seemed full.”

How­ever, Coun­cilor John­nie Wal­ton op­posed Sti­matz’s reap­point­ment. And he made no bones about the rea­son why: Sti­matz’s past crit­i­cism of him and op­po­si­tion to his re-elec­tion.

“Myself now, this person has been a part of council for many years and we have served together, and I just can't see myself, because of how I've been treated by him, especially during election seasons, he was negative on two or three elections concerning me, and I usually give a counter-punch but I never did counter-punch him,” Walton said, referring to Stimatz. “Right now I just can't see myself, you know, supporting the young man.”

Councilors Darius Horton and Gabriel Adkins, who generally side with Walton on controversial votes, agreed. Notably, Adkins won one of the two 2nd Ward council seats in last October's election. Councilwoman Anita Hummer was re-elected to the other.

Adkins said “some comments were made to myself that I wouldn't have made to anyone else running for city office,” apparently referring to Stimatz.

For his part, Horton said he couldn't support anyone with a “derogatory mindset.”

None of the three councilors specified exactly what Stimatz said that they objected to, nor did they question his performance or qualifications to serve on the airport authority.

Horton also asked if the city had advertised Stimatz's position before seeking to reappoint him. Interim City Clerk April Onley said no, but noted the city's various boards and committees, as well as their members and the years of their terms, are listed on the city's website.

Third Ward Councilor Kem Spence differed on that point, noting the city had not delayed or denied other reappointments because they weren’t advertised; the city should treat everyone seeking appointments the same, he said.

Though she had served with Stimatz for years, Hummer also declined to support his reappointment. She acknowledged his years of experience, but said it may be time for someone new to serve on the airport authority.

Third Ward Councilor Rickey King, the council’s mayor pro tem, said he supported reappointing Stimatz. He argued the airport authority requires someone with experience and knowledge of aviation. Stimatz is a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain.

Walton disputed that, noting that airport authority Chairman Johnnie Houston isn't a pilot. Walton also criticized the authority for not reporting back to council, and volunteered to serve on the authority himself.

Hummer echoed that point, saying she felt a sitting councilor should serve on the authority so they can regularly report back to council.

That prompted Horton to recommend that Walton be appointed to the authority. City Attorney Bill Morgan, however, said the motion was out of order. The mayor makes appointments and, while they are subject to councilors' approval, councilors cannot make appointments themselves, he said.

That led Horton to make a motion, seconded by Adkins, to not appoint Stimatz to the airport authority. Besides Horton and Adkins, Hummer, Walton, Spence and First Ward Councilor Jeannie Young also voted for the motion.

At the start of Tuesday's discussion, Young said she supported Stimatz for the seat, but subsequently said she felt a sitting councilor should serve instead.

Council's action means Parker will need to recommend a different appointee at an upcoming meeting.

Stimatz could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday about the council's decision.

Asked Friday about the council's decision not to reappoint Stimatz, Houston declined comment. He said he wouldn't comment while council is still deliberating on who to appoint. He wants to avoid appearances of trying to influence their decision, he said.

Houston also declined to comment on Stimatz's service on the authority.

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