Top Stories of 2012 – No. 5: County board gets two new membersPublished 9:15pm Thursday, December 27, 2012
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners has two new faces among its members — Gary Brinn, a Republican, and Robert Belcher, a Democrat.
Before the Nov. 6 election, county residents knew there would be at least one new commissioner come December. Democrat Robert Cayton chose not to seek re-election to the board. Instead, he opted to run for the District 3 seat in the N.C. House of Representatives. He lost to Republican Michael Speciale in the recent election.
Brinn, a political newcomer, tallied enough votes to earn a seat on the board. Jay McRoy, a Republican incumbent, finished sixth in the race. The top four vote-getters won the available seats on the board.
Brinn’s campaign message: “Stop the nonsense.”
True to his word, Brinn, minutes after taking his oath of office, sought to start the process to replace the limited-voting method in the county. Board Chairman Jerry Langley appointed Brinn and fellow commissioners Stan Deatherage and Ed Booth to a committee investigating the possibility of doing away with limited voting in the county. Brinn is chairman of the committee. Nine county residents are to join the commissioners on the
The committee was appointed at the request of Brinn, who recommended that it be given six months to make its recommendations and report monthly to the commissioners on its progress.
Some commissioners said privately that while there was support for the creation of a committee among board members, there might not be enough support among board members to move forward with a change in electing board members.
Beaufort County voters have used so-called “limited voting” to elect commissioners about 20 years, following a 1991 court order from a federal judge enforcing an agreement between county leaders and a group of black residents over changes to the system of electing commissioners.
Under the old election system, the county board comprised five commissioners with each elected at-large by voters countywide.
The election of Brinn and Langley and the re-election of Langley and Hood Richardson created a board of county leaders comprised exclusively of Washington residents or those who live in the Washington area.
That has led to growing dissatisfaction among voters who live in Aurora, Bath, Belhaven, Chocowinity and other parts of the county who believe their votes don’t count, Brinn and others have said.
Brinn envisions a plan that would see some members of the county board elected from districts and others elected to at-large seats that would be subject to countywide voter approval.
That way, county voters would have the chance to choose at least two county commissioners every two years, he said.
Belcher is a former chairman of the Beaufort County Board of Education. He also wants to do away with limited voting. He has vowed to make supporting public schools a top priority.