Laurinburg City Council’s newest member will likely be appointed next Tuesday, but it remains uncertain who that person will be.
Council met this week to discuss the appointment process, but left the meeting without determining how exactly the appointment will be made.
The council is seeking to replace District 1 Councilman Herbert Rainer, who plans to step down at the end of the month.
The last two people appointed to council were hand picked by their predecessors. Rainer announced last month that he planned to continue that tradition and selected former county Commissioner J.D. Willis to take his place on the council.
Since that time, Laurinburg pastor Dr. Jesse Brunson has also stepped forward as a candidate for Rainer’s seat.
Mayor Tommy Parker urged the council not to change its appointment policy “mid stream.”
“Heretofore the outgoing council member has offered a name which in the past council has accepted. The precedent is that,” Parker said.
But Councilman Kenton Spencer has proposed a more extensive appointment process. He said he favored a vetting process for prospective appointees and added that he was leery of naming someone with whom he was unfamiliar.
“You’re asking me to vote on someone that I don’t even know,” Spencer said, clarifying that he was referring to both Brunson and Willis.
“When we are in a precarious time making critical decisions, who you put on the board does make a difference.”
Councilwoman Mary Jo Adams also expressed disappointment that there was not already a more extensive policy in place.
Taking responsibility for the lack of a formal policy for the appointment of council members mid-session, Parker said that “he did not anticipate having to deal with (Rainer’s resignation) as quickly as we are having to deal with it.”
Determined to continue operating under the established precedent, Councilman Curtis Leak said that he trusted Rainer’s “expertise and intelligence,” and would accept Rainer’s recommendation.
“I feel that he made the right decision, so I heed to whatever (Rainer) said,” Leak said.
Leak also questioned the motive of those looking to buck the precedent.
“The irony about the whole thing is that it always happened in District 2 in the past and nobody said anything, and all of a sudden something happens in District 1 and everybody wants to be in charge.”
According to Leak, most of the members who chose to vacate their seats in the past have been white women.
“The only white female that served their full term was Ann Slaughter,” Leak said. “(White females) have just quit because of the pressure that the community puts on them. “
Adams objected to the characterization, pointing out that some of the past members being referenced by Leak had actually moved out of the city limits and resigned for that reason.
“You say they moved, but everybody didn’t move. I keep notes, Miss Adams. I’ve got notes. What happened after Jane Ford and the other lady left, every one of them had the opportunity to pick their successor.”
In the instance of former Councilwoman Jane Ford’s resignation 18 years ago, council did take written applications. Leak said that the process was little more than a formality.
“All we did was sugar coat it. Let’s cut the bull. She basically picked who she wanted.”
Defending the precedent, Rainer sad that the council has “always adhered to a democratic process of freedom of the vote.”
“We have not denied anybody the opportunity to be voted on,” Rainer said.
It remains to be seen on Tuesday how the council will proceed with the appointment process.
They may either continue the tradition of taking an up or down vote on the outgoing member’s nominee or they may take nominations from the floor and then vote from among those nominated individuals.
Parker encouraged those council members with concerns about Willis or Brunson to call them privately.
“I don’t mean for this to be a smart comment, but the phone rings both ways … (and) if there is a question you have, talk to them. You have to be willing to do that.
“If you all want to open (the vote) up to other people, that’s your business, but my plan is to vote Tuesday night.”
The entire voting process will take place in open session.