With Monday the official resignation date for Durham County Commissioner Becky Heron, her former colleagues started the process to appoint someone to take over her term.
In a work session Monday morning, the board agreed to send a letter to the Durham County Democratic Party to ask for its nomination to replace Heron, who announced in late June she would resign in light of medical problems and to spend more time with her family. Heron is 83 and was in her 13th term at the time of the announcement. Her term expires next year.
In addition to receiving a nomination from the Durham County Democratic Party, the Commissioners decided to hold their own vetting process. They'll put the word out in the next few days, they said Monday, and applications will be due to the board clerk by August 15. The commissioners will meet at 4:30 p.m. on August 22 for a first look at the applications and decide how to interview candidates and what to ask.
At Monday's work session, board Chairman Michael Page said he felt strongly that all applicants should get an interview. The board agreed to hold interviews beginning at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and tentatively set a date to vote on the matter on Monday, Sept. 12. The board has a regularly scheduled meeting that night.
The Durham County Democratic Party should receive an official request from the Board of Commissioners in the next couple of days to start their own nomination process. Once that letter arrives, said Chairwoman Tracey Burns-Vann, the party will also begin accepting applications.
The party has tentatively scheduled a candidate forum for Saturday, Aug. 13. The more than 100 members of the PAC's executive committee tentatively are scheduled to vote just a few days later on Aug. 16, Burns-Vann said.
According to state statute, the commissioners are not required to accept the nomination of the Durham County Democratic Party, and may appoint a candidate of their own choosing, so long as he or she is a member of the same party as the departing commissioner. Heron is a registered Democrat.
In their discussion Monday, county commissioners agreed that they wanted to do background checks on candidates similar to those used for county job applicants, making sure candidates are up-to-date on any property taxes and haven't been convicted of crimes. The commissioners also agreed that they would strongly recommend that anyone who applies directly to the board also go through the county Democratic Party.
A few eager candidates have already sent letters to county commissioners and the Democratic Party. Among them: Anita Daniels, a former county employee, former Planning Commissioner Wendy Jacobs and 2008 candidate for N.C. Lieutenant Governor, attorney Hampton Dellinger.
Neither Daniels nor Dellinger were able to be reached Tuesday night for comment. Jacobs did confirm she had sent a letter to both the Board of Commissioners and the Democratic Party describing her desire to serve the remainder of Heron's term. Jacobs, who just concluded her second term on the city/county planning commission, said that Heron called her prior to resigning and asked whether Jacobs would be willing to finish her term if she had to step down.