New faces for county, school boards
With new commissioners in place, the Union County Board of Commissioners went to work Monday, Dec. 6.
In front of a packed house, new County Commissioners Jerry Simpson, Jonathan Thomas and Todd Johnson took their oath of office, then by a split vote the board elected Simpson chairman and Johnson vice chairman for the new term.
“When I was asked to run, I had no idea what lay in store,” Simpson said. “To say I’ve been humbled is an understatement.”
Simpson continued a tradition started for his family in 1878, when his great grandfather took over as clerk of superior court. It’s generally tradition for those with the most votes in an election year to be named as chair and vice chair. This year the top candidate was Simpson, who finished first with 33,098 votes in November. The Waxhaw farmer and former Cooperative Extension director was the night’s only unanimous vote, with fellow members electing him 4-0.
Electing a vice chair was slightly more disputed, with members nominating Tracey Kuehler and Johnson. Johnson had finished second in the election with 32,610 votes, with the president of Johnson Insurance Management coming in 488 votes behind Simpson.
“It’s nothing personal,” Commissioner Kim Rogers, who nominated Kuehler, said. “I feel what’s best for Union County is to have a chair alongside a vice chair with experience.”
Simpson and Thomas both supported Johnson’s nomination, saying he had an entrepeneurial spirit and was good with numbers. Johnson won 3-2.
“I’m just excited,” said the Waxhaw resident, whose father swore him in. “I look forward to working with this board.”
The third new commissioner, Monroe native Thomas, said it was time for groups that opposed each other in the election to put that aside and move forward.
“The political games are over,” Thomas said. “I want to be a commissioner for all of Union County. I look forward to (working) to achieve those goals we outlined in our campaign.”
County attorney dismissed
One of the new county board’s first actions was to dismiss board attorney Keith Merritt on another 3-2 vote and appoint Ligon Bundy as interim, while the staff sends out a request for proposals from other firms. Merritt, who had been installed by the previous board, also serves as town attorney for Indian Trail. Some commissioners questioned the idea of searching for a new attorney, with water, sewer and so many other issues still up in the air.
“I’m just concerned about the learning curve and the amount of (time) it will take (a new attorney) to get up to speed,” Kuehler said.
Rogers agreed, saying Merritt had done his job, making each of the previous board mad at least once, by reminding them of what’s allowable by state statute. Merritt has no ties to Union County which Rodgers said makes him a perfect attorney, with no biases.
“That’s one of the main reasons I’m interested in looking,” Thomas said. “We have some great attorneys here in Union, (and) the learning curve I don’t believe will be as big as mentioned.”
The board gave attorneys a week to send in their applications, to be reviewed at the board’s Dec. 20 meeting.