Commissioner Ellen Frost being sworn in early this year. File photo by Max Cooper
Commissioners voted 6-1 on Dec. 3 to appoint Democratic freshman Ellen Frost to succeed Democrat Holly Jones as vice chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, putting her in a symbolic leadership position as she heads into a reelection year.
Republican Mike Fryar cast the lone vote against Frost. Both of them represent District 2 on the board, which encompasses Fairview, Weaverville, and Frost’s hometown of Black Mountain. Fryar nominated himself instead, but failed to receive support from any of his colleagues. Neither Frost nor Fryar made the public case for their appointment, providing very little comment at the meeting before or after the vote.
In last year’s contested general election, Frost won a two-year term on the board by only 17 votes, giving Democrat’s a 4-3 majority of the board’s seats. She’s already said she plans to defend her seat next year. Her former GOP opponent, Christina Kelley G. Merrill, is also planning to run again.
Jones, a Democrat, finishes up a one-year term as vice chair, which traditionally has been a ceremonial position with duties mostly limited to presiding over meetings when the chair is absent. However, the job does pay more: Regular commissioners earn $26,475 per year and the vice chair makes $30,732 (the chairmanship pays $34,989). Republican Commissioner Joe Belcher mounted a failed bid for the position against Jones last year.
Current Chair David Gantt, a Democrat, was previously vice chair before defeating Republican Nathan Ramsey in 2008 to earn the top job.