Monday, May 20, 2024

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Candidates for GOP commissioner appointment begin to line up

The election of Amy Scott Galey to North Carolina’s state senate will leave a conspicuous hole on Alamance County’s board of commissioners, where Galey has served as the board’s chairman for the past several years.

Although Galey won’t have to vacate her current position until the new state legislature is sworn in on January 1, her would-be successors have already begun jockeying for the support of the local Republican Party, whose leadership will ultimately select Galey’s replacement on the county’s governing board.

Under state law, the replacement of a county commissioner who exits mid-term is ultimately the prerogative of the party under whose banner the former office holder won his or her seat. The Republican Party’s local leadership is entitled to nominate a replacement, whom the full board of commissioners is then obligated to install. This appointment is valid for either remainder of the former commissioner’s unexpired term or until the next regular, countywide election – depending on which of the two happens to come first.

In Galey’s case, her current four-year term on the board of commissioners is set to expire after the next countywide vote in November of 2022. Her successor’s appointment will consequently be effective until then.

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According to Ben York, the chairman of Alamance County’s Republicans, the race to replace Galey technically won’t start with the state-senator elect gives up her spot to take her position in Raleigh. At that point, the local GOP’s executive committee will hold a special meeting to select someone to take over her post on the board of commissioners.

“It will be in January,” York added, “and I don’t expect Ms. Galey to resign her commission seat until she’s sworn.”

The selection of Galey’s successor will ultimately be open to all 45 of the executive committee’s members, who include party officers, elected officials in partisan positions, and Republican candidates from November’s general election.

York said that about half a dozen people have already approached him to share their interest in this position. Even so, the only ones who had formally submitted their names as of Wednesday were Craig Turner, an attorney who currently serves as the local party’s first vice chairman; Michael Trollinger, a long-serving member of Green Level’s nonpartisan town council; and Henry Vines, a farmer from Snow Camp who defected from the Democratic Party earlier this year.


Craig Turner

A native of Alamance County who did a turn in the U.S. Navy before he dove into law school, Turner insists that his local roots are just one of the advantages he would bring to the board of commissioners if selected to replace Galey.

Craig Turner, who currently serves as first vice chairman of the Alamance County Republican Party.

“I was born and raised in Alamance County and I lived her all my life except for the time I was in active duty in the Navy,” he told The Alamance News in an interview Tuesday. “I went to law school at Elon…and I was an assistant district attorney in Alamance County for a bit.”

Turner, who currently works in private practice, said he has become well acquainted with many of the issues that face the commissioners thanks, in part, to his professional focus on construction law. The would-be commissioner said his experience would be particularly useful as the school system embarks on some high-dollar construction projects that the county will ultimately fund.

Turner went on to insist that the county could benefit from his legal representation of Greensboro police officers who’ve been involved in civil lawsuits. He added that, on the development front, he’d like to see the county retain its “hometown feel” as it remains attractive to business and industry. He also emphasized his active involvement in the local Republican party as well as his relative youth in comparison to other county commissioners.

“I’m 47 years old,” he elaborated, “and I think it would be good to have a fresh perspective on the board.”


Michael Trollinger

A fresh point of view is likewise a leading credential for Trollinger, who in addition to being a member of Green Level’s town council is one of the few black Republicans in Alamance County. Trollinger believes that his background could be a real asset given the racial divisions in the community – which have recently been fanned by an ongoing controversy over a Confederate monument that has stood on the grounds of the county’s historic courthouse for more than a century.

“With all the chaos in Graham surrounding the statue and the unfair tag of being a racist county,” Trollinger told the newspaper on Monday, “I think that being African-American will allow me to reach out to others in the community and build bridges.”

Green Level town councilman Michael Trollinger

As for the calls for the monument’s removal, Trollinger said that he considers this prospect a “non-issue” since state law currently forbids the commissioners to raze or relocate this “object of remembrance.”

Aside from his potential role as a bridge builder, Trollinger touts his extensive experience in municipal government, which has included a recent stint as Green Level’s town administrator in addition to his 12-year tenure on the community’s town council. He also underscored his long-time membership in the local GOP, even if his affiliation hasn’t been widely known to many of his fellow Republicans.

“I’ve been a Republican for 30 years,” Trollinger recalled. “I’ve served as a volunteer with the Alamance County Republicans, going door to door and helping people register to vote.

“I’m a conservative,” he added, “and I believe in less government in people’s lives.”


Henry Vines

A conservative identity is just crucial to the third candidate for Galey’s position who has formally submitted his name to the party’s chairman.

A farmer from the unincorporated community of Snow Camp, Henry Vines has waged several unsuccessful campaigns for the board of commissioners as a member of the Democratic Party. Vines told The Alamance News that he severed ties with the Democrats after he finished last among the five aspiring county commissioners who had competed in the party’s primary election in March.

“It’s been my ambition to serve the county as county commissioner,” the newly-minted Republican elaborated. “But it seems that [because of] my conservative views in the last two primaries, the Democratic Party has rejected me.”

Henry Vines, a former Democrat who lost that party’s primary in March to more liberal competitors, has since become a registered Republican and is now seeking the appointment to Alamance County’s board of commissioners.

Vines added that he has come to see the Republican Party as a far more fertile field for his deeply-held values, including his aversion to property tax hikes, which previously inspired him to advocate for sales tax increase that area voters have repeatedly turned down. This proposed bump in the sales tax rate nevertheless had the unanimous support of the all-Republican board of commissioners before its latest defeat in the March primary.

Aside from his similar views on taxation, Vines has found common ground with many Republicans in his emphasis on farmland preservation as well as his positions on other key issues. Vines added that his outlook as frequently found favor with Alamance County’s sheriff Terry Johnson, who he credits with his decision to pursue Galey’s seat on the board of commissioners.

“I’ve been asked by the sheriff to change to the Republican party for years,” he added, “and Terry came to me and asked me if Amy was elected to seek the seat…[Outgoing county commissioners] Bill Lashley and Tim Sutton also both said they were willing to endorse me.”


Blake Williams

Another potential entrant in the fight for Galey’s position is Blake Williams, a retired U.S. Army general in the U.S. Army who currently serves as a trustee for Alamance Community College.

Blake made his first bid for the county’s governing board in this year’s Republican primary. Although he ultimately finished fifth in this seven-way race for the party’s three slots in the general election, Williams believes his experience as the commander of a 6,800-soldier division would make him an ideal addition to the county’s governing board.

“Basically, you’re taking care of your soldiers and taking care of their families,” Blake explained in an interview Monday.

Blake Williams, a member of the community college board of trustees, was an unsuccessful Republican candidate in the GOP primary earlier this year.

“My goal is to make sure that Alamance County continues to grow and that all of our citizens are taken care of,” the aspiring commissioner added. “I’m also retired so I have the time to put into this position.”

Williams said that both k through 12 and post-secondary education would remain an “absolute priority” for him as a county commissioner. The retired general also flourished his own educational achievements, which include a master’s degree from NC State University as well as his completion of a course in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

“The most important thing is that I am a Christian,” added the faithful parishioner of Grace Reform Baptist Church in Mebane.


James Kirkpatrick

Another primary hopeful who’s interested in the executive committee’s appointment is James Kirkpatrick of Burlington.

Although a first-time candidate during the party preliminaries in March, Kirkpatrick managed to place fourth among the seven contenders, landing a mere 160 votes behind the third highest vote getter, Pam Thompson, who went on to compete in this month’s general election. Thompson ultimately won a seat in the general election, as did the GOP’s other two nominees.

Burlington planning board member James Kirkpatrick was the fourth place finisher in the March primary for three available slots for the November general election.

As the first runner up from the primary, Kirkpatrick believes he has demonstrated a certain credibility as a campaigner that he hopes will put him in good stead with the executive committee.

“Yes, I’m going to put my name in the hat,” he went on to assure The Alamance News on Tuesday. “I ran before and I had a pretty good number of votes. I just didn’t make it across the finish line.”

A 49-year-old native of Burlington, Kirkpatrick spends his work days at Triangle Grading and Paving. The would-be commissioner insists that his time in the construction trade has given him the practical sensibilities necessary to serve as a county commissioner. Kirkpatrick has also acquired some local government experience as a member of Burlington’s municipal planning board. But the prospective appointee contends that his ultimate qualification for the board of commissioners is his desire to serve the community.

“I love this place,” he elaborated, “this [county] has been so good to me, and I want to give back to the community.”


Roger Parker

Galey’s seat on the board of commissioners has also piqued the interest of Roger Parker of Mebane.

A long-time Republican who has resided in Alamance County since 1995, Parker briefly served on the board of commissioners in 2016 when the GOP’s executive committee tapped him to fill another vacant position.

The executive committee had assigned Parker this seat with the understanding that he would serve as a caretaker until that year’s general election. In the meantime, its members chose Galey to be their nominee in the election, in which she ultimately prevailed over a Democratic opponent.

Roger Parker previously served an appointed term on the board of county commissioners.

Although Parker never had the opportunity to run for the seat outright in 2016, he insists he’s prepared to do so in 2022 if he’s anointed as Galey’s successor.

“I wouldn’t seek the position if I didn’t intend to run,” the would-be commissioner explained in an interview. “There’s a lot of things going on in the county, and I think it will take someone with experience who knows the county [to deal with these issues].”

A 77-year-old native of Durham, Parker moved to Alamance County after 31 years in finance and management at IBM. The prospective appointee recalls that he joined the GOP’s local organization shortly after his relocation, and he insists that his Republican credentials are as solid as anyone’s.

“I agree with the party’s stance and platform,” he elaborated. “I’m a fiscal conservative, and I’m also a social conservative.

“When I first joined the party, we still met at Harbor Inn,” he added. “I’ve served as secretary for several years. I’ve served as vice chair for several years. And in 2010, I ran for the state house [unsuccessfully in a heavily Democratic district]. So, I’ve been involved [in the party] for about the whole time I’ve lived in Mebane.”

During his stint as a commissioner, Parker sat on the county’s senior services and adult care home committees, which he said have provided him additional insights into county government. The aspiring commissioner has also served on Mebane’s municipal planning board, including a five-year stretch as its chairman. And he’s particularly proud of his contributions to Mebane’s First Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon and as president of his Sunday school class.

In addition to his civic obligations, Parker said that he and his wife try to make time for their four children and five grandchildren. But with his dance card otherwise free, the hopeful commissioner says he is ready to serve at the pleasure of the executive committee.

“I promise to give 100 percent if I’m selected,” he added, “just like I did when I was on the board in 2016.”


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