Roberts holds on to county chair

by Andrew Batten

Jennifer Roberts was unanimously re-elected as the county commission’s chairwoman on Monday, Dec. 6, but not before a move to oust her from the top leadership spot.

In the days leading up to Monday night’s swearing ceremony, several news outlets reported that Democrat Harold Cogdell was trying to secure for himself the position of chairman. That would have required the votes of the board’s Republican minority. The reports suggested Cogdell promised to vote for Republican Jim Pendergraph as the commission’s vice-chair, a role Cogdell had served in.

Commissioners have traditionally elected the at-large commissioner that garnered the most votes in the November election to serve as the chairperson. Roberts, a Democrat, was the highest vote-getter in the election, followed by Pendergraph and Cogdell.

Monday night, however, Republican Karen Bentley, District 1 representative, nominated Cogdell as chair and Pendergraph as vice chair.

“During my tenure representing District 1 in the northern part of Mecklenburg County,” Bentley said, “Commissioner Cogdell has not only been very receptive to my constituents but has been available to meet with constituents from all over this county. … Commissioner Cogdell, I believe, will see the greater needs of the county.”

George Dunlap, District 3, denounced Bentley’s move to nominate Cogdell.

“Under what circumstances does the third highest vote-getter become the chair?” Dunlap asked. “If Mr. Cogdell tonight right now denounces the Democrat party and all of the support he received from the party and declares that he is a Republican, I will vote for him.”

Roberts took issue with other commissioner’s unwillingness to communicate with her.

“What I am concerned about is fellow commissioners not approaching me about concerns with my past leadership,” she said. “I’m happy to talk about what leadership might be lacking.”

Voting Cogdell as chair would “go against tradition, go against the will of the people,” she added.

But Cogdell said he was never trying to become chairman and that no deal making had occurred and asked Bentley to rescind her nomination. He said he was trying to make a point about partisan politics.

“I’m sick and damn tired of partisan politics because people aren’t communicating anymore,” he said.

But there might be a little room for bipartisanship on the board after Pendergraph, a Republican, was unanimously elected as the vice chairman.

“I think this might be an historic moment,” Roberts quipped after the Pendergraph vote.

“I know it is,” Pendergraph replied.

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