Mecklenburg County commissioners approved a policy Wednesday that makes any of the nine members eligible to be the boards chairman or vice chairman.
The policy, introduced by commissioner George Dunlap, is a departure from the unwritten rule that the chair was typically an at-large commissioner in the majority party whod received the most votes. It passed 5-4, with Democratic commissioners Pat Cotham and Kim Ratliff and Republican commissioners Karen Bentley and Bill James voting against it.
Dunlap said he felt there needed to be a written policy to prevent any confusion on who was eligible because the tradition has been violated a half dozen times in the past.
A tradition is a tradition if you follow it, he said. But Republicans have voted to violate it and Democrats have voted to violate it.
Under the new policy, any member of the board can run for chair or vice chair no matter which party holds the majority.
Cotham, the boards top vote-getting at-large member who was ousted as chair in December, said the chairmanship ought to be reserved for at-large members.
She said district commissioners are beholden only to voters in their districts at-large members are elected by voters throughout Mecklenburg.
Its harder to run at-large, its more expensive and time-consuming you just have more skin in the game, Cotham said. I am for the people having a say in (who should be chair). This policy takes that say away.
She said when the tradition wasnt followed, it was to oust women as she was ousted and former commissioner Jennifer Roberts was ousted in 2011.
Dunlap said other government boards such as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board have been led by district representatives.
He has said he represents District 3, but bases his votes on the best interests of the county.
These concerns are unfounded, he said. This policy allows any (commissioner) of any party to become chair or vice chair. You must convince your colleagues that youre the best and most qualified person.
Cotham said she expected Dunlap to run for chairman in December.
Dont bet on it, Dunlap said.
Ill put my money on it, she said.
Ill take it, he responded.
Commissioners renamed the Fighting Back Building on Rosa Parks Place in westside Charlotte for Hattie Anthony, the longtime director of the county health departments Fighting Back program, who died in November of ovarian cancer.
After commissioner Vilma Leake proposed the building be renamed The Hattie B. Anthony Fighting Back Center, relatives told the board how even when Anthony was sick, her concern was for the people of the westside.
The vote to rename was unanimous.
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