Chatham school board gives up on appointing new member

Board members ask Rep. McManus to create special election for her empty seat
Feb. 21, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

After a half-dozen long and unproductive meetings regarding how to best fill the empty seat on the Chatham County Board of Education that was vacated when Deb McManus won election to the N.C. House of Representatives in November, school board members are conceding defeat at the hands of their own intransigence.

The board has been considering two applicants — Angela Millsaps and Jane Allen Wilson — for the position, which must be filled by someone from Siler City. However, two of the current board members support Wilson, two support Millsaps, and none of them are willing to change their minds.

So on Monday morning, after even a professional mediator couldn't get the two sides to compromise, the board voted unanimously to give up their own deliberations and ask McManus to propose legislature establishing a special election that would take the choice out of the board's hands and give it to the people of Chatham County.

"I hate when I think politics have gotten into it," McManus said of the divide that has David Hamm and Gary Leonard staunchly in support of Millsaps, and Del Turner and Karen Howard staunchly in support of Wilson. Nevertheless, she said, she will do whatever she can to help and is willing to let the process get even more political by going to a vote.

Although the seat must be filled by a Siler City resident, a vote would have to be offered to everyone in the county because school board members make decisions for all public schools. The election would also be open to anyone who is eligible and wants to apply, not just Wilson and Millsaps.

The resolution calls for the election to be held in November or sooner, but McManus said the only date before November that she could think of was the municipal elections in September. However, she said, the General Assembly might balk at legalizing this election to be held in September because it would require hiring more workers and opening more polling places to allow it be open to all county residents, not just those living and voting in municipalities.

For her part, McManus said, she hasn't attended the meetings about her replacement and didn't leave any instructions or wishes as to how the board should fill her seat, saying she didn't want to be a distraction but adding that she never thought it would be so difficult. She was on the board when Leonard was appointed several years ago following the unexpected death of Gerald Totten, and she said that decision was fairly quick and easy despite six people applying for the position.