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Avery County Board of Education Fails to Appoint Fifth Member After Deadlock Vote August 15

By Tim Gardner

A vote to fill a vacancy on the Avery County Board of Education failed during its regular monthly meeting August 15.

All Board members were present at the meeting–Chairman John Greene, Vice-Chairwoman Kathey Aldridge, Pat Edwards, and Randy Singleton.

There are normally five Board of Education members. But a vacancy has remained on the Board since the resignation of Ruth Shirley in June, 2022.  The current Board members have since had ongoing discussions and have also taken several votes about appointing Steve Smith or Linda Webb to fill the remainder of Shirley’s term, which is set to expire in 2024. However, they have been deadlocked at 2-2 about either Smith or Webb filling the vacancy.

Smith is a former Board member and Webb was a candidate in the Board of Education election in 2022.  Webb finished third in the election behind then first-time candidate Singleton and incumbent Edwards to win one of the two open seats.

Appointing Smith or Webb to fill the vacancy has to be by a 3-1 majority or a unanimous (4-0) vote. But the same 2-2 deadlock remained during Tuesday’s vote.   Aldridge and Greene voted for Smith. Edwards and Singleton voted for Webb.

The Board members have voted in the same manner for either Smith or Webb each time a vote has been taken.

“The Board chooses the method of appointing a new member when a vacancy arises as there is currently no other protocol for filling a vacancy that has been adopted by any Board of Education through the years in Avery County,” Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman said.  

Therefore, the seat could remain vacant unless a majority (three) or all four (a unanimous vote) of the current Board members agree to appoint Smith, Webb, or another person, or until a candidate is elected in the May 2024 Primary Election. 

Smith and Webb can run as candidates for the Board of Education then. 

A Board of Education race in North Carolina is non-partisan, meaning that candidates do not run with by any political party affiliation and those who win in a primary election are automatically elected and do not have to run in a General Election later the same year. There are also no run-off or second primary elections in a North Carolina Board of Education race, meaning that a candidate does not have to obtain a certain percentage of the vote to win.  If a candidate only wins the election by one vote, he or she will serve on the Board.

Brigman added that he believes the Board will “continue discussions concerning the appointment of a fifth Board member before next year’s election.”

The next Avery County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12.  It will be held in the Board of Education headquarters, located at 775 Cranberry Street in Newland.