Wednesday, August 4, 2021

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School board member tapped for county planning board along with son of current planning board member

Alamance County’s commissioners have tapped a current school board member and the son of a long-serving planning board member to fill a pair of openings that had emerged on the county’s planning board.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the commissioners unanimously assigned one of the planning board’s vacancies to Sandy Ellington-Graves, a local realtor who also presently serves on the Alamance-Burlington school board. The commissioners also voted 3 to 2 to award the planning board’s other available seat to Phillip Cobb, whose father Ray is already a long-standing appointee to this same citizen advisory board.

The commissioners approved both of these appointments based on referrals from the planning board’s own members, who had endorsed Cobb and Ellington-Graves from a slate of eight applicants for the board’s two available seats.

The two positions which were filled on Monday had originally come before the commissioners on April 19 – along with a third opening that had also emerged in the planning board membership. The commissioners went on to award one of the three seats to former planning board member Rodney Cheek, who had been forced off the board for a year due to a term limit requirement.

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A long-time member of good standing, Cheek’s bid for reinstatement came to the commissioners with an endorsement from the planning board’s remaining members. The commissioners ultimately gave this recommendation a unanimous nod after Cheek’s wife Andrea gave up her a seat that she had previously held on the planning board.

Although the planning board’s by-laws don’t actually prohibit close relatives from serving together, the potential for just such a pairing sparked an adamant objection from commissioner Pam Thompson on April 19. Thompson ultimately supported Rodney Cheek’s appointment in light of his wife’s resignation earlier that month. But Thompson refused to accede to the planning board’s other recommendation to install Phillip Cobb in the second of the two available seats.

The commissioners eventually agreed to defer their consideration of Phillip Cobb’s prospective appointment. They also postponed their decision on the planning board’s third vacancy, which had emerged with Andrea Cheek’s departure on April 7. The rest of the planning board hadn’t had an opportunity to propose anyone for this late-coming opening before the commissioners met on April 19, The commissioners consequently remanded the matter to the planning board to give its members the chance to make a recommendation.

The planning board’s members ultimately stuck by their earlier endorsement of Phillip Cobb when they revisited his recommended appointment in May. In the meantime, the group suggested Ellington-Graves as a potential successor to Andrea Cheek. The planning board reportedly chose the current school board member over fellow applicants Earnest Bare, Barrett Brown, Josh Canozona, Tamara Kersey, Cora Palfrey, and Tim Woody.

The number and quality of these other contenders did not go unnoticed when the commissioners resumed their consideration of the planning board’s vacancies on Monday.

“In reading over these applications,” Steve Carter, the vice chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, declared during that evening’s discussion, “we have a really good depth of interest in serving this community.”

Carter and his colleagues went on to give their unanimous nod to the suggested appointment of Ellington-Graves. Thompson nevertheless remained resistant to Phillip Cobb’s recommended installment when the commissioners turned their attention to the planning board’s other vacancy.

“I do not support family members being on the same committee at the same time,” the commissioner said, “That is not against anybody personally. It’s just principle that I have…There’s so much talent in this county. I just hope that everybody steps up to serve our county.”

Thompson’s misgivings were echoed by commissioner Bill Lashley, who later joined her in opposing Cobb’s appointment when it came up for a vote.

Yet, the concurrent service of a father and son didn’t prove as problematic to commissioner Craig Turner. Before he cast his own vote in Phillip Cobb’s favor, Turner acknowledged that he had previously sounded out the prospective appointee as well as his father about their potential service together and added that he felt confident about of the “independence” of the two Cobbs.

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