by Bob Geary
[Update: 5/2 — According to the N&O, Wake Commissioner Stan Norwalk just announced that today's meeting of the Board of Commissioners will be his last. Re-reading this post from five weeks ago, the only other update is that Cary Town Councilor Erv Portman is on the list of those "mentioned" as a possible replacement for Norwalk. Two prominent Democrats mentioned Portman to me privately on Saturday at the Jefferson-Jackson breakfast in Cary hosted by the Democratic Women of Wake.]
What follows is from the 4/23 post:
Wake Commissioner Stan Norwalk, the one forceful progressive voice remaining on the Republican-majority board of county commissioners, has his house in Cary on the market. As soon as it sells, he plans to move to Kansas with Marcia, his wife of some 56 years, to be close to one of their two daughters. This is a combination of age — Norwalk is almost 80 — and the fact that, with Democrats now in a 3-4 minority on the board following the Republican sweep in the November elections, Norwalk's ability to affect an outcome is slim to none.
Norwalk's term of four years has almost two more to run — he's not up for re-election until 2012. When he moves, he'll of course resign and his replacement will be named by a committee of the Wake Democratic Party. The choice may be interim, that is, someone not interested in running for the seat when Norwalk's term expires. Or it may be someone who is interested in running, in which case Norwalk's decision to step aside early will give that person a chance to make a name for her/himself over the next year-plus.
But I've known Stan for a long time and know him to be hard to pigeon-hole on a given issue. Mainly, he's pragmatic and interested in seeing that the schools are well-run and well-funded, and he's not dogmatic about anything other than the importance of a high-quality school system to the health and economy of a community.
That said, the search is on for his replacement. It has to be someone who lives in Norwalk's district — District 4. Names I've heard "mentioned" (I always loved Bill Safire's "Great Mentioner" columns) include Yevonne Brannon, a former commissioner and currently leader of the Great Schools in Wake coalition; Karen Rindge, the head of Wake Up Wake County; and Al Swanstrom, a former candidate for the state House of Representatives. Come to think of it, the GSIW group is full of pro-schools activists, several of whom would be good candidates.
Let me know — by posting here or to email@example.com — if you hear of other names, or more about the ones I've mentioned.
With Norwalk's departure, just two Democrats remain on Wake board — longtime member Betty Lou Ward, who's not expected to seek another term in 2012, and ex-Raleigh Council member James West, who was appointed to fill Harold Webb's unexpired term when Webb stepped down last year at age 85.
Point being, the changing of the guard in Wake Democratic politics continues with the death of former Sen. Vernon Malone, Webb's resignation and Ward's and Norwalk's advancing years. It presents a challenge for the new party chair, Mack Paul, and anyone else who thinks a Democratic Party in Wake County would be a good thing to have.