Candidate filing for municipal and school board races in Burke County wrapped up on Friday, with four people signing up to run.
And by the time all was said and done, it’s clear Morganton City Council members aren’t the only ones trying to stack the deck in their favor with this election.
The filing period, which ended at noon, saw two brothers running for seats in Valdese, another family member of Connelly Springs Mayor Johnny Berry running for a seat, questions about whether a police chief can simultaneously serve as a councilman in Glen Alpine and whether some council members in Morganton changed a nepotism policy so a candidate could run without impacting his nephew’s job with the city.
And while it appeared Morganton Mayor Ronnie Thompson would go unchallenged, a last-day filing gave him some competition for the November election.
Christopher Pruitt filed to challenge Thompson for mayor of Morganton on Friday. In June, Thompson and Council Members Forrest Fleming and Sidney Simmons voted to change the city nepotism policy to exempt aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and people who live together. It appears that change was made so Larry Whisnant could file for Fleming’s seat without jeopardizing his nephew Capt. Jason Whisnant’s job with Morganton Department of Public Safety. Fleming did not file for re-election.
By Thursday, only one person had filed for the three seats up for election in Connelly Springs. On Friday, former town board member Kimberly Sigmon and newcomer Dustin Huffman filed for the Connelly Springs Board of Aldermen. Sigmon is the daughter of Mayor Johnny Berry and Berry’s grandson, Josh Phillips, also is a current alderman. Unless someone runs as a write-in come November, three generations of the same family will hold seats on the board. On Friday, Berry said he wasn’t aware his daughter was going to file to run but he said it had been difficult finding anyone to run for the board seats.
Also on Friday, Kendra Edwards filed for a town commissioner seat in the Town of Rhodhiss.
In Valdese, Gary Ogle, brother of current Councilman Keith Ogle, filed Thursday to challenge incumbent Frances Hildebran for the Ward 4 seat on the Valdese Town Council. Keith Ogle also filed for re-election for Ward 5 earlier in the filing period and is unopposed.
In Glen Alpine, near the end of the day on Thursday, Rodney Cox filed for re-election to the Glen Alpine Board of Aldermen. Cox also is police chief for the town.
It’s that dual role that is now in question after a state rule change in 2018, according to elections officials.
In an April 5 advisory letter to Glen Alpine Town Clerk Sherry Farris, N.C. Special Deputy Attorney General Paul Cox said it is his opinion that Rodney Cox could still be a police chief and hold elected office, even with an amendment to the state law governing dual roles for police and police chiefs.
However, a recent email from the state Board of Elections to Mace said its legal team discussed the matter and had a different interpretation of the law than the Attorney General’s Office. The state board told Mace that it will discuss it with the AG’s office and get back to her, but it may take some time to work through the issue. The state board said it will have a resolution to the matter before the November election.
Regardless of the resolution of the matter, it’s too late for Cox to withdraw from the race, Mace said. His name will remain on the ballot for the General Election.
As for the school board, the Central District incumbent Don Hemstreet will be unopposed, as will the At-Large District incumbent R.L. Icard.
Candidates who filed are:
Mayor: Christopher Pruitt and Ronnie Thompson
District 2: James Bagley, Chris Jernigan and Larry Whisnant
District 1: David Connelly, Isaac Crouch, Butch McSwain and Sidney Simmons
Two council seats: Jody York, Terry Weaver, Derek Cline and Matthew Church
Ward 1: Andy Thompson
Ward 4: Gary Ogle and Frances Hildebran
Ward 5: Keith Ogle
Mayor: Danny Ritchie
Alderman, unexpired seat: Matt Johnson
Two alderman seats: Terry Yount and Rick Cline
Glen Alpine —
Two alderman seats: Terry Pendley, Tommy Helms, Jack Falls and Rodney Cox
Rutherford College —
Three council seats: Mark Stinson, James Huffman Jr. and Wayne Annas
Connelly Springs —
Three aldermen seats: Kimberly Sigmon, Dustin Huffman and Ramona Duncan
Two town commissioner seats: Kendra Edwards and Allen Spencer Sr.
Board of Education —
Eastern District: Wendi Barber, Hope Hoyt and Randy Burns
Central District: Don Hemstreet
Western District: Randy Fox, Edna Weller and Kelvin Beam Sr.
At-large District: R.L. Icard
Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828-432-8946.