Four candidates are seeking appointment to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. All four are African-American, and whomever wins, they’ll be the first black member to serve on the county board.
In case anyone missed it, here’s what’s going on: Democrat Commissioner Brownie Newman ran for board chairman and won the race against Republican Chuck Archerd. Newman’s move leaves his old seat open for an appointment, which will be made by the Buncombe County Democratic Party at a meeting next month.
Current Asheville City Councilman Keith Young announced earlier this year that he’s campaigning for that seat. Young won election to City Council last year, one of three first-time candidates to win.
Former Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy is also campaigning for the seat. While she didn’t respond to my queries last week, she told the Citizen-Times that she was seeking the seat and that her experience made her stand out. Bellamy handles communications for the Housing Authority of the city of Asheville.
Jacquelyn Hallum and Al Whitesides are also campaigning for the appointment. Both are fixtures in the local community.
Hallum, an Asheville native, has worked in the health care field for nearly three decades. She serves as director of Health Careers and Diversity Management at the Mountain Area Health Education Center. She’s a former member of the Asheville City School Board and the Asheville Housing Authority, where she served with Whitesides. She’s long fought on the social justice front, including pushing for parity in health care delivery. (She wrote a health column for me when I worked at the Asheville Citizen-Times.)
Whitesides, also an Asheville native, made his career in banking. He, too, has been at the forefront of social justice issues, including segregation in Asheville. While attending the segregated African-American Stephens-Lee High School in the early 1960s, he and his classmates joined Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality and organized and participated in nonviolent demonstrations to desegregate local businesses. Whitesides has also volunteered his time in a number of capacities, including serving on the University of North Carolina at Asheville’s Board of Trustees.
Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith announced earlier this week that he would not bee seeking a county board appointment.
The new board of commissioners is sworn in on Dec. 5.
The other seats on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners went as follows on election night last week: 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.
Jason – I had also heard that UNCA poli-sci professor Dwight Mullen was in the running. Is that just rumor?
Four (or five) very well-qualified African-American candidates. Tough decision. My initial pick would be Terry, but I wonder how well she would work under Chairman Brownie, after having been Mayor over Councilman Brownie. I don’t recall them being extremely close during those years. It’s not just the individual Commissioners, it’s how well they will gel under a new Chairman to be an effective majority.