In history-making choice, local Dems pick Whitesides as new Buncombe County commissioner

Members of the Buncombe County Democratic Party picked retired banker Al Whitesides to serve on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, District 1, on Monday night. It was a history-making choice: Whitesides is the first African-American chosen to serve on the board. He will serve through 2018.

“I’d like to thank everybody for the confidence you’ve shown in me and I promise you this I won’t let you down,” Whitesides said in accepting the nomination. “I won’t let you down.”

Whitesides, who will be sworn into his new seat on Tuesday, said the he plans to set up an advisory committee and will run for re-election in ’18.

Whitesides won out over three other African-American nominees: Former Mayor Terry Bellamy, current Asheville City Councilman Keith Young, and Jacquelyn Hallum, former chairwoman of the Asheville City Board of Education.

Local Democratic Party officials were meeting to fill the seat of Commissioner Brownie Newman, who was elected chairman in the November elections.

Whitesides, who touted his experience with finances, won in a third round of voting by 59 local Democratic Party officials. He was the top vote-getter in every round.

Local attorney John Noor nominated Whitesides for the seat, with local party activist Veronika Gunter seconding the nod. Both cited his leadership qualities as reasons to support him.

The other seats on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners went as follows on election night in November: Republican incumbent Mike Fryar held a narrow lead over Democratic challenger Nancy Nehls Nelson. The race is so close that Nelson can request a recount. Incumbent Republican Joe Belcher won over Democrat Ed Hay, and newcomer Robert Pressley, a Republican and former NASCAR driver, beat challenger Democrat David King, a former commissioner who served as a Republican on the board from 2012-14. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a Democrat who ran unopposed, won her seat.

About the Author

Jason Sandford
Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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