Wake commissioners name leadership in first meeting
Posted December 1, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Commissioners named their leaders on Monday, the first act of the first meeting of the new, all-Democratic board.
They elected James West to chair the board and Caroline Sullivan to be vice-chairwoman.
"One thing I’m going to do is try to bring out the very best in our common humanity in order to improve the human condition in this great county," West said during the meeting.
Monday's meeting is the first in recent memory where the the board is in the hands of a single party. Sig Hutchinson, Matt Calabria, Jessica Holmes and John Burns, defeated opponents Joe Bryan, Phil Matthews, Rich Gianni and Paul Coble, respectively, in last month's election.
Some won their elections by slim margins, which is something Burns said he does not take for granted.
"I was elected by 50 something. That means almost 50 percentof the people in this county didn’t want me here today, so I know I need to listen to those people as well as the people who voted for me," he said.
In an interview Sunday, Hutchinson said the board would focus on two key issues.
“We heard the voters in November and what they said is they want to move forward on public education, start working with school board,” he said. “They want to move forward on transit.”
Sullivan, the vice-chair, is looking forward to discussing transit options with citizens, including the possibility of a rail system.
“A week from tomorrow, we'll have our first transit meeting and hopefully we'll have a lot of public involvement and comment,” she said Sunday.
Hutchinson said commissioners plan to meet with Wake County Board of Education members in the near future. Relations between the two boards have been frosty in recent years as they bickered over education spending and control of school construction and maintenance.
Much of the upcoming discussions will center around funding, but Hutchinson acknowledges that commissioners don’t have all the answers.
“We're just starting with those types of issues, and the first step from the public school perspective is sitting down with the school board, listening to them and developing a long-term plan,” he said.
Some of those decisions should be decided by voters, Jessica Holmes said.
"I’m a firm believer of putting things on the ballot and allowing voters to decide if something is worth the investment," she said. "I don’t think it’s the commissioners' role to spoon feed tax increases. That’s not what we're about."
Hutchinson said all perspectives will be heard, even with the board being all Democrat.
“Every voice will be heard and every view will be represented as we move into 2015,” he said.