Newly elected Manteo commissioners make their presence known

Published 2:52 am Friday, December 13, 2019

It didn’t take long for newly elected Manteo commissioners to flex their political muscle. Only minutes after taking their oaths of office, they bucked incumbent commissioners and replaced the mayor pro tem and questioned the appointment of the town attorney.

After the mayor and commissioners who had won seats in the recent election were sworn in and the obligatory thank you to voters and promises to do their best were said, the new commissioners balked at designating commissioner Darrell Collins mayor pro tem. Collins had held the position under two Manteo mayors.

Collins was nominated by commissioner Christine Walker to retain the title, a position with the responsibility to assume the mayoral duties in the event of a mayor’s absence. Commissioner Eddie Mann then nominated Betty Selby, the top vote-getter in the November election and one of two political newcomers on the board.

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A vote was divided between longer-serving commissioners Walker, Richie Burke and Collins, who voted for Collins, and the newly elected commissioners Borland, Selby and first term commissioner Mann voting for Selby. Mayor Bobby Owens broke the tie, giving the nod to Selby.

At the beginning of a new term, it’s generally routine that the Board of Commissioners appoint the serving town clerk, manager and attorney. Manteo town manager James Ayers and town clerk Becky Breiholz were appointed by acclamation, but Selby demurred at appointing the current town attorney Wyatt Booth. Instead, Selby, calling the attorney appointment important to the town, said she would like more information. She threw out the name of local attorney Jeff Malarney as a possible replacement.

With the vote of confidence for Booth appeared headed for another split vote, the mayor suggested the motion to appoint Booth be tabled. Booth reminded commissioners he only served at the pleasure of the board. On a motion by Selby, the consideration for the appointment of an attorney was delayed until the January meeting.

With the organizational portion of the December 4 meeting concluded but not settled, the board moved on to other agenda items, including approving the consent agenda, which included a resolution to oppose reclassification of coastal waters the town contends will adversely impact local fisherman, receiving public comment from supporters of a jet pack recreation business that would be restricted from operating in town waters and a lengthy closed session that resulted in no action.