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The Daily Tar Heel

Jamezetta Bedford and Earl McKee fill new BOCC positions after Renée Price's departure


Orange County  Board of County Commissioners Jamezetta Bedford and Earl McKee filled the chairperson and vice-chairperson positions on the Orange County BOCC after Renée Price’s departure to the North Carolina General Assembly.

Rep. Price (D-Orange, Caswell)served on the BOCC in multiple capacities after her first election in 2012. Before serving as a commissioner, Price participated on multiple advisory boards and commissions for the county.

Price’s departure left an open seat on the BOCC. Applications for the position were due on Jan. 6, and the BOCC will make a selection from the Democratic Party’s nominees by Feb 7.

Price said she credits her experience as a county commissioner and volunteer on advisory boards as valuable preparation for her new position in the state legislature. She also said seeking out communication with community members was key.

“It's more than understanding what the development plan is. It's also about how various communities view those developments or the possibility of change,” Pricesaid.

The BOCC will continue operations under the leadership of Bedford, the former vice-chairperson, now in her position as chairperson. Before being elected to the Orange County BOCC, Bedford served on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board as both vice-chairperson and chairperson.

Bedford said her initial interest in running for commissioner stemmed from her personal investment in her grandchildren, who attended Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools at the time.

“Then you become a commissioner and you realize, oh my gosh, there’s so much more,” Bedford said.

There are 43 BOCC volunteer boards and commissions. Of those, 36 are currently seeking new applicants. Bedford said finding applicants is difficult, especially when many barriers may prevent people from participating. 

Bedford added that advances from the COVID-19 pandemic and broadband access improvements have helped solve these problems.

“We can help people overcome those barriers so that if they don't have a car, they don't have transit out in the county, they can still participate in meetings,” Bedford said. 

Vice-Chairperson Earl McKee has served on the Orange County BOCC since 2010. During that time frame, he has held both vice-chairperson and chairperson positions.  

“Earl has guided me to various communities that I didn't know,” Price said. “Earl was born and raised here. He knows the ins and outs that I don't even know.”

McKee’s family has lived in the Orange County area since the mid-1800s. McKee said he believes his background has given him a rather unique perspective on the county’s progress. 

He also said newcomers bring an equal appreciation for Orange County.

“I think that this board will continue to push forward, and I see my role as vice-chairperson in just helping facilitate that — just helping to ensure that we are all moving together as one unit,” McKee said.

While the leadership roles of the chairperson and vice-chairperson keep the BOCC agenda on track and provide guidance, Bedford and McKee both emphasized the importance of collaboration in all BOCC responsibilities.

McKee said the vice-chairperson position is not to serve the primary leadership, but rather to support the chairperson to be ready and willing to step into any role that is needed if the chairperson is unable to. In his first term as vice-chair, McKee said he saw it as an opportunity to learn and become more involved.

“I saw that as a training ground,” he said.

Bedford said the chairperson facilitates the agenda review process, speaks on behalf of the commissioners, and does greetings for various functions. Bedford said she believes in “distributed leadership.”

“The chair of the county commission has almost no powers with one exception that I can think of which is declaring states of emergency,” Bedford said. “So our role as chair is really just to help with the vice-chair and the manager.”

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Price said McKee’s knowledge of the rural areas will complement Bedford’s knowledge of the more corporate Chapel Hill-Carrboro environment. 

“I think we've got a good leadership team,” Price said.


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