The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

July 17, 2013

Republicans take majority on County Board of Elections


TARBORO — For the first time in 20 years, the Edgecombe County Board of Election will be ruled by the Republican Party.

Chad Hinton (R), Janet Lewis (R) and Shelly Willingham (D) were sworn in Tuesday at the board of elections office.

The majority seats are held by the party of the governor. Gov. Pat McCory became the first Republican governor since Jim Martin held the seat from 1985 to 1993.

A handful of Edgecombe County Republicans attended Tuesday's board of election meeting and they viewed it as a festive occasion.

"We decided to throw a reception afterward," said James Proctor, chairman of the county Republicans. "This is the first time the Republicans have controlled the board of elections in 20 years. We decided to mark the occasion. It's not going to make a tremendous difference in regards to how the elections are run. But having been the minority in this state for so long, it's nice to see, on the local level, where the roles have switched."

After the board members were sworn in, their first order of business was to nominate officers — Hinton was nominated as the chairman and Lewis the secretary.

Hinton, 31, is one of the youngest members ever to have been nominated on the board. The 2009 Elon University School of Law graduate is a partner in the law firm DeLoatch & Hinton, PLLC of Tarboro. Hinton is originally from Nashville.

"I am delighted to serve as Chairman of the Edgecombe County Board of Elections," he said. "This is quite an honor and I take this roll very seriously. The elections process is where the rubber meets the road in our democracy and as chairman of the board, I will do my best to ensure a fair and honest process for all candidates and citizens. Thank you to the Edgecombe County Republican Party, the State Board of Elections, our director Jerry Spruell, and my wife and son for their nomination and support of me in this new role.”

The Board of Election grounds are familiar turf for Lewis. The Lewis Community native previously completed the unexpired term that was vacated by Betty Lewis. The two are not related.

Lewis retired in 2011 as Tarboro town clerk after 22 years of service. When asked why she accepted the role she said, "I want to be involved with the election process in my county."

The turf is also familiar for Willingham, who served with the previous board. He also has experience in the political arena as he served on the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners in the late 1980's and in the state House from 2002-2004.

"I have confidence in this board," Willingham said.

Willingham and Charles Rountree (D) were the majority members of the previous board. Betty Lewis was the lone Republican. Lewis said she did not wish to be nominated because Donald Boswell, an Edgecombe County commissioner, plans on seeking reelection. Boswell is married to Betty Lewis' daughter. The law prohibits family members on the board to remain if another family member seeks election. Lewis served nine years on the board of elections.

"The board of elections is so crucial that it has to be done correctly and it follows the law fairly and it's an open process," she said. "I truly believe that the boards here that I've served on, have done that. I trust that it will be done that way this time. I have confidence in the folks who are on that board."

Community activist, the Rev. Rooselvelt Higgs agreed. Higgs attend the vast majority of the BOE meetings.

"This board has the opportunity to continue to give great service to the citizens," he said. "The Democratic Party, for the last 20 years, has given a template. It's a matter of them to use the template that has been laid before them."