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In split vote, Simpers gets mayor pro-tem role

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WAKE FOREST — In a 45 minute meeting Tuesday, the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners swiftly approved several items after no citizens came forward to speak during a series of public hearings.

The three hearings concerned the closing Wrigley Drive due to realignment, a petition from Ledgereock Properties to annex property along N.C. Highway 98 Bypass, and the town’s 2020-2025 Capital Improvement Plan, which lists major upcoming expenditures.

The first two items were approved unanimously by the commissioners. The Capital Improvement Plan is expected to be adopted at a future meeting.

One contentious item came near the end of the meeting, when Commissioners Liz Simpers was appointed mayor pro tem in a 3-2 vote.

Commissioner Chad Sary nominated Simpers for the role, which is in charge of mayoral duties when the mayor is absent, and was seconded by Commissioner Jim Dyer. Commissioner Adam Wright then nominated Commissioner Bridget Wall-Lennon, who seconded her own nomination.

Wall-Lennon’s reasoning for wanting to be appointed to the post stemmed from the November 2017 election results, when she and Simpers received 24.92% and 23.84% of the votes, respectively.

“From what I recall in the past, there was a recommendation that came from the mayor and also seeing many other boards select who was the highest vote-getter in that election cycle as the mayor pro tem,” she said.

Wall-Lennon continued: “I think both Commissioner Simpers and I would serve adequately in the post, but there is precedent and protocol I’d like my colleagues to consider.”

Mayor Vivian Jones said that while that was a practice that the board did at one time, that hasn’t been the case for most of the last 18 years.

Simpers, Sary and Dyer voted for Simpers’ nomination. The motion to appoint Wall-Lennon was rendered null and void.

In other business, the board scheduled a public hearing for Feb. 18 to discuss a request to annex property in the 1700 block of Averette Road.

In presentations, four retiring town employees were recognized for their many years of service: Chief information officer Thomas LaBarge, parks and recreation maintenance specialist Jimmy Thrift, police Capt. Darren Abbacchi and police Sgt. Richard Brown.

Each was presented with a resolution of appreciation; Abbacchi and Brown were also awarded their badge and service weapon after the board approved the items as surplus material.

Also recognized was the Wake Forest High boys soccer team, for making state champions in the 2019 season. The team won the Class 4A State Championship game for the second time in the school’s history, 23 years to the day after their first win.