Durham County Commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday on whom to appoint to replace former board member Becky Heron. Chances are, it could be full-time volunteer and former banker Pam Karriker who gets the job.
Commissioners voted once already on Sept. 12, but were tied 2 to 2, with commissioners Michael Page and Brenda Howerton supporting Karriker, and commissioners Joe Bowser and Ellen Reckhow supporting former planning commissioner Wendy Jacobs. At the meeting, Reckhow and Bowser said they would be comfortable declaring a deadlock and sending the decision to the county clerk of court, who by law is required to appoint someone if the commissioners wouldn't.
But Howerton urged her fellow commissioners to take more time to think and come back to vote again Sept. 26, as they had initially planned. Reckhow and Bowser were adamant that they would not change their minds. But on Wednesday, Bowser did send a letter to Durham's county manager and attorney saying he would now support Karriker:
After many days of careful consideration concerning the selection of a replacement for Former County Commissioner Becky Heron, I have decided that we must act in the best interest of the people of this county. With that being said, I will join Commissioners Page and Howerton in their support of Pam Karriker. ... It is my hope and belief that the addition of Mrs. Karriker will help to continue this board’s work in creating jobs and serving the interest of the citizen’s of this county.
Bowser hasn't yet returned a phone call seeking further explanation.
Karriker grew up in East Durham and is now married to a pastor and has raised foster children, she told commissioners during her interview earlier this month. She spent 17 years as a mortgage supervisor and underwriter for CCB bank, she said, and has worked for several nonprofits. She has also been on a city capital planning board since 2006. She has also committed to not running for a county commissioners' seat in 2012, when all five positions will be elected.
During her interview, Karriker mentioned that she wanted to see more communication between the commissioners and the school board, not just during budget time, when the schools are eager to make up a funding gap. She also wanted to see the school system emphasize vocational education and tracks for students other than college.
"We have to start earlier emphasizing with children that these vocational opportunities are good," she said. "That there is dignity and worth in a lot of jobs where maybe a college education is not needed."
During questions about her philosophies related to planning and development, Karriker said she wasn't particularly well versed in the definition of smart growth, but said she appreciated communities designed with public transit and pedestrian access in mind, specifically those in European cities.
By contrast, the commissioners' other top choice, Wendy Jacobs, served on Durham's city-county planning commission and is studied in planning and zoning issues. Most would also consider Jacobs an environmentalist, per her steadfast opposition to the controversial 751 South development, which is sited near Jordan Lake. Jacobs, who currently works part-time for a real-estate company as a support staffer, also worked as an elementary school teacher for several years. When Heron stepped down from her seat this past summer due to poor health, it was Jacobs she wanted to see take her seat, she told her colleagues.