DOBSON — In an unusual move, the Surry County Board of Commissioners is set to hold a press conference announcing its choice to replace Commissioner Garry Scearce — weeks before the commissioners actually vote on his replacement.
The hearing is scheduled for this Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Surry County Republican Headquarters located at 1249 N. South St. in Mount Airy.
During its meeting Monday night, the board voted for Commissioner Eddie Harris to take over Scearce’s position of vice chairman.
Thursday’s press conference is allowed under state law, and when asked about the unusual move, Commissioner Paul Johnson said they’re in somewhat uncharted waters as well.
“This is only the second commissioner who passed away in office,” he said. “We’ve never had this kind of issue before.”
According to Johnson, Thursday’s press conference is simply announcing their choice.
Johnson was adamant that the county isn’t trying to do anything improperly or underhanded.
“We’re doing everything we’re doing straight by the state statutes,” he said. “Both the state and county Board of Elections have given us advice, as well as the county attorney.”
Asked about the unusual location of the press conference, Johnson said “that’s just where we decided to have it.”
“The position is a Republican and we thought that would be good protocol to have it at their headquarters,” he said. “We’re Republicans and we’re appointing a Republican to take a Republican’s place.”
Noting that the statute itself is “the craziest thing you’ve ever looked at,” Johnson said the board is bound by law to replace Scearce.
“We’re not trying to do anything illegal or behind anyone’s back, but it’s our responsibility to appoint someone and we’re putting our choice out there,” he said.
According to County Attorney Ed Woltz, North Carolina statute 153A-27 “permits remaining members of the board to appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy through the first Monday in December, next following the first general election held more than 60 days after the vacancy occurs.”
“The appointee must be a member of the same political party, as well as a resident of the same district as the member being replaced,” he said.
Johnson said the formal vote will take place during the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 20.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.