Franklinton's audience was all masked up -- and properly (mostly) distanced at meeting
FRANKLINTON -- In a split vote that required Mayor Art Wright to break the tie, commissioners chose a lifelong resident of the town as its next commissioner.
The board voted 3-2 to have Judy McArn finish out the unexpired term of Brad Kearney.
During Tuesday's special called meeting, Kearney resigned the post he's held since 2015 to become head of the town's streets and public works department.
"It's been an honor and a privilege to serve the town," Kearney said. "We've got good things going on in this town and I look forward to serving in a different role."
Moments after Kearney's resignation, commissioners began the process of selecting his replacement.
Town Attorney Brian Pridgen advised the board that it had a number of options, including:
• Making nominations and voting on them during the July 28 meeting;
• Advertise the vacant position and solicit applications or resumes from the public;
• Select the commission candidate who received the highest number of votes in the most recent election [which would be Mark Lemmon].
"You can make this process as simple or as complex as you'd like," Pridgen told board members.
Apparently, McArn and former mayor Elic Senter were the only two residents who had expressed interest in the post when its vacancy became public.
Commissioner John Allers urged the board to wait for more potential candidates from the public.
The majority of the board said they were ready to move forward with action.
"This feels rushed," Allers said. "... We don't have to fill it tonight," he said, noting the board still had enough for a quorum to handle town business in the interim.
"We should hold off."
Commissioner Dr. Phil Meador did not agree, noting that the residents had time between the announcement of the meeting July 24, and the July 28 meeting date to inform the board they were interested in the post.
Also, he said, "we have excellent candidates" who have expressed interest.
"You can't pick any more or better than what we've got."
The process allowed commissioners to nominate candidates and a majority vote would resolve the matter.
Meador and Commissioner Anita Fuller first nominated McArn and Commissioners Allers and Alvin Holden then nominated Senter -- who served as the town's mayor from 2007 until 2015.
Allers said he made and supported Senter's nomination because the town is at a critical juncture in terms of realizing growth, navigating COVID-19-related impacts on the budget and the town would benefit from someone who is already familiar with town government.
Wright, who served as a commissioner on the board with Senter before beating him out for the mayor's seat in 2015, voted in favor of McArn.
"I know both candidates very well," Wright said. "Judy has been in charge of our crime watch and has done a good job.
"She really loves the town more than anyone else I know," he said.
"She's everything the other side has said about Elic," Meador said of his nomination of McArn. "I think she's an excellent candidate.
"We're thrilled at the prospects of her being on the board and continuing our forward progress in the town."
For her part, McArn said she's ready to get to work.
"I grew up in Franklinton and have had this vision of our downtown for a very long time," said McArn, who works with the state's Child Support Services and whose husband, Mark McArn, operates Brassfield Realty.
"... The opportunity arose and now is the time," she said. "I have just a huge heart for the town of Franklinton."
McArn is slated to be sworn in during the board's Aug. 18 meeting.
Kearney's position with the town pays $65,000.