Chair policy change does not pass

Published 8:27 am Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A motion to amend policy dictating the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors’ chair and vice chair selection process did not pass Tuesday during the board’s January organizational meeting.

Jim Wilck

Farmville 701 District Supervisor Jim Wilck was named board chairman near the start of the meeting according to the board’s rotation process.

When the time came to discuss proposed amendments to the board’s bylaws, Wilck asked County Administrator Wade Bartlett to read the proposed change to the rotation process for the election of the chair and vice chair.

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“The amendment in article two, second paragraph, states, ‘Should a member of the board decline to seek the nomination as chair or vice chairman, he or she could nominate any other eligible board member to serve in the position,’” Bartlett said. “‘The full board would then vote on that nomination. The board member declining to serve would move to the end of the rotation list of seniority, and the rotation would proceed to the next higher district number.’”

Hampden District Supervisor Dr. Odessa Pride made a motion to adopt the amendment, and it was seconded by Leigh District Supervisor and new Board Vice Chairman Jerry R. Townsend. The vote ended up being 4-4, lacking the tally needed to pass.

Voting against the motion were Lockett District Supervisor Robert M. “Bobby” Jones, Farmville 101 District Supervisor Gene A. Southall, Buffalo District Supervisor C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr. and Prospect District Supervisor J. David Emert.

According to the minutes of the board’s Jan. 9, 2018, meeting, then-Chairman Robert M. “Bobby” Jones “stated that at the organizational meeting in 2016, it was determined the selection of chairman and vice chair would be by rotation.”

As listed in the board packet for the Jan. 9, 2018, meeting, the board’s bylaws state, “The position of chairman and vice chairman of the board shall be rotated annually among the board members. The rotation process will commence with the most senior member, that is being the member from District 101 serving as chairman and the member from District 201 serving as vice chairman. Seniority will be based on cumulative months/years of service on the board of supervisors, which need not be consecutive. In keeping with this policy, the selected vice chairman will be elevated the following year to serve as chairman. Upon completion of serving a term as chairman, that district’s board member would move to the end of the rotation list. A board member shall have a minimum of one year of service on the board prior to election as the vice chairman and two years of service prior to election as the chairman. Should a member of the board decline to seek the nomination as chairman or vice chairman, that district’s board member would move to the end of the rotation list of seniority and the rotation would proceed to the next higher district number. If a tie shall occur in the seniority of board members, the board member from the lower-numbered district shall succeed as vice chair/chair first.”

Dr. Odessa Pride

During the board’s regular December meeting, Pride began the discussion of changing the rotation process for election of board leadership by putting forth a motion.

“I move that the board member whose turn has arrived to be board chairman but chooses not to serve has the power to select another individual on the board to take his or her place,” Pride said. “This does not impact the board’s normal rotation in any way.”

Wilck expressed support for the motion, noting it would allow the supervisor refraining from the chairmanship to select someone who would do a good job as opposed to just leaving things up to the rotation.

Timmons said the established policy “just makes it cleaner, it makes it where there’s no division.”

Jones said, “It also gives each district an equal opportunity to have a person in charge.”

Wade Bartlett

In a previous interview, Bartlett provided some insight into some of the key powers the board chair has, in addition to being the face of the county at various events, like the recent economic development announcement involving YakAttack LLC.

“The chair can set the tone of the board,” he said. “We talk with the chair on the agenda for each meeting during the year and get approval on that. Now, the chair can add anything to the agenda on his or her own volition, whereas it would take at least two other board members — any two can add something to agendas anyway.”

He later added, “Probably the biggest impact the chair has is on the appointment of the committees. The chair appoints members to the various committees. Now, if you read in the protocol, the rest of the board does have an ability to vote on that, but I’ve never seen where the rest of the board has ever denied the chair the appointments that he or she so desires. Theoretically they could, but I’ve never seen it happen.”