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Commissioners bump school board chairman from county planning board

The chairman of the Alamance-Burlington school board has been bounced from an appointed position that she had held for the better part of two years on Alamance County’s planning board.

During a brief meeting on Monday, a majority of Alamance County’s commissioners decided to bump Sandy Ellington-Graves from her seat on the planning board despite a recommendation of her reappointment from the planning board’s current lineup.

A local realtor who has served on the local school board since 2020, Ellington-Graves had originally been elevated to the county’s planning board in June of 2021. Ellington-Graves’ term had been set to expire on December 31 along with those of Rodney Cheek and Amy Perkins.

ABSS school board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves

The rest of the planning board had previously urged the commissioners to reappoint all three of these planning board veterans as part of a broader overhaul of the planning board, which has been reduced in size from 13 to 7 members in the course of this shakeup. In addition to these three proposed reappointments, the planning board had also suggested that a fourth available seat should be assigned to Henry Vines, a one time candidate for the board of commissioners who has also recently served on the county’s board of equalization and review.

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The reappointments of Perkins and Cheek were readily endorsed on Monday by county commissioner Bill Lashley, who also threw his support behind the installation of Vines in the planning board’s fourth available seat. But Lashley, who has recently had several public rows with the leadership of the Alamance-Burlington schools, passed over the school board’s chairman in favor of Lee Isley, another one-time candidate for the board of commissioners who has also previously served on the planning board.

Lashley’s proposals were ultimately embraced by John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners and another vocal critic of the Alamance-Burlington school system. Joining them in the 3-to-1 vote to adopt this four-person slate was the commissioners vice chairman Steve Carter.

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The only commissioner to oppose these appointments to the planning board was Pam Thompson, who had serve on the Alamance-Burlington school board before she joined the commissioners in 2020. Prior to Lashley’s suggestion, Thompson had proffered her own four-person slate which also included Cheek, Isley, and Vines, but omitted Perkins in favor of Ellington-Graves. Her motion to install these four individuals on the planning board failed for lack of a second.

Absent from Monday’s proceedings was commissioner Craig Turner, who had gotten married over the weekend.

In addition to filling four of the seven seats on the county’s planning board, the commissioners also gave their unanimous nod to an inaugural lineup for the county’s new board of adjustment.

The board of commissioners, which had historically doubled as the county’s board adjustment, recently agreed to spin off this responsibility to a new appointed group whose members will be tasked with hearing requests for variances, special-use permits, and appeals of administrative decisions by the county’s planning and inspections departments.

To assist the commissioners in their appointments, the planning board had recommended as inaugural members of this quasijudicial body the planning board’s chairman Ray Cobb and four other applicants: Richard “Tom” King, Isaac Holt III, Michael Owens, and Debra Hyder. The planning board also suggested Linda Causey and Max Morgan to fill the board of adjustment’s two alternate slots.

Rather than accept the planning board’s recommendations, commissioners Bill Lashley proposed his own lineup for the board of adjustment that demoted King to the status of alternate in favor of Michael Wilson, a prospective appointee to the planning board who hadn’t technically applied for the board of adjustment. In addition, Lashley had proposed as the second alternate, Henry Chandler, an applicant for the board of adjustment who had failed to secure a nomination from the planning board’s membership.

Lashley insisted that he had chosen these seven individuals based not only on their credentials but also on their attendance records as planning board members.

“I took everybody who sent in an application and tried to build a team,” he explained.

At the behest of Alamance County’s attorney, who had urged the commissioners to stagger the terms of the board of adjustment’s new members, Lashley proposed to appoint Cobb and Holt to terms of two years apiece and to assign terms of three years in duration to Hyder, Owens, and Wilson. Lashley also suggested designating King and Chandler as the first and second alternates respectively.

These suggestions were ultimately approved by the board of commissioners in a 4-to-0 decision.

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