Monday will be a very busy day or Buncombe County commissioners. New commissioners, but not all of them, will be sworn-in at a meeting of the board Monday. Two spots will likely remain open, but a second meeting of the Buncombe County Democratic party will fill of those empty seats later Monday evening. Emily Patrick, a reporter for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the paper's Buncombe County government watchdog, stopped by the WCQS studios to give a preview of the day's events.
On Monday's schedule - "The Buncombe County commissioners meet at 4:30 for the new commissioners to be sworn-in. The interesting thing here not all of the new commissioners will be sworn-in. (Republican commissioner) Mike Fryar's race is in a recount and he is likely to win that. He's up by more than 300 votes in a race with over 20,000 cast, so a recount is unlikely to unseat him. But from everything we've seen thus far it does not seem like they will swear him in (on Monday). There will also be an empty seat this evening, and that is because Democrats need to appoint someone to fill it. Brownie Newman (who held the District 1 seat) has been sucked up the chain of command to serve as chair. He was elected in a countywide race to serve as chair last month.
On the candidates to fill that empty District 1 seat - "Once tonight's board meeting ends we'll do a mad dash over to Democratic party headquarters to see who they will choose. Right now there are four people contending for that spot, but more could come forward. Someone new could emerge tonight, but right we have people we know well already - Asheville city councilman Keith Young, former Asheville mayor Terry Bellamy, longtime civil rights activist and professional in Asheville Al Whitesides, and Jacquelyn Hallum who works at the Mountain Area Health Education Center. Everyone is very well known. They're friends, they've worked together in previous capacities. And that makes for a really unusual competition."
On which of the four may have the edge in getting the seat - "Keith Young has created the most fireworks for better or for worse. He was the first in the race. He has been the most aggressive in pursuing this position. That's a word I don't like using all that much but I think it applies here. Terry Bellamy has a lot of experience and a lot of name recognition. But also has kind of a controversial history. She has taken some positions on things like benefits for same-sex workers in city government that may come back to haunt her. Jacquelyn Hallum is someone we haven't seen a lot of publicly but is someone with a very professional edge. It will come down to what kind of personality the party wants to see on the board. Whether they think it's best to have someone who will punch from passion, or punch from professional experience, or punch from political experience."
On what issues the board will work quickly on once the full board is sworn-in - "Brownie Newman has talked about setting up a sustainability office as one of his first measures as chair. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is coming out pretty strong with ideas to help children in Buncombe County. The poverty statistics for children in Buncombe County are pretty astounding. They're above 20-25%. So environment and child policies are things we'll see coming out of the gate pretty early on."