Four members of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners were sworn in and then split their first vote, for the board’s vice chair, down party lines on Monday, Dec. 5.
New Chair Brownie Newman and Commissioners Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Joe Belcher and Robert Pressley were all sworn in before participating in an organizational meeting also featuring Commissioner Mike Fryar, whose race is still undecided as he leads Nancy Nehls Nelson by 307 votes. However, Fryar is still considered a commissioner.
Newman vacates his District 1 seat to become chair and county Democrats appointed Al Whitesides at a separate meeting later Monday evening to finish the two-year term. Whitesides will be sworn in Tuesday, Dec.6.
The six commissioners weighed in on the beginning of a new chapter. Newman recounted working with previous chairs and expressed respect for them. “These are all people who made a great contribution to our community, and it is a real opportunity to serve in this role. I hope to be able to contribute the way those servants have,” he said.
Beach-Ferrara gave thanks for support during her campaign. “I want to express my respect and admiration for everyone up here, and I look forward to serving,” she said.
Pressley told former Chair David Gantt he would be missed and said, “I’m looking forward to all of us working as a team, not one person doing the work.”
Fryar then said, “Whatever happens in this recount is the way it will be. Hopefully, I’ll be able to serve with these good people. We’ll all have to work together.”
“I want to thank the Lord for the opportunity to be up here. I’m excited about the second term and I’ve been able to grow to know the people to my left and my right,” said Belcher who also noted all members used a Bible to be sworn in on and “those are the principles we can serve and govern by.”
Ellen Frost, who didn’t have to run this election cycle, said, “I congratulate everyone and look forward to working with everyone. We have great goals, so full speed ahead.”
After commissioners exchanged their remarks and pleasantries about looking forward to working together, the board came to loggerheads about its next vice chair. Republicans Belcher, Fryar and Pressley voted for Fryar, while Democrats Beach-Ferrara, Frost and Newman voted for Frost.
Since the board was at a stalemate, the vote for vice chair was tabled until the board’s Tuesday, Dec. 6. meeting. It will likely go to Frost as Democrats will have the majority after Whitesides takes office.
You can see a preview of that meeting here.