Note: This article has been corrected to accurately reflect the vote to approve the chair and vice-chair positions.
WILMINGTON — New Hanover County Commissioner Julia Olson-Boseman will replace Jonathan Barfield as chairperson of the board, with Commissioner Patricia Kusek stepping into Olson-Boseman’s vice-chair position; the shake-up is the first time in the board’s history that women have held both chair positions.
Every year, the Board of Commissioners votes on a chair and vice-chair position — the vote is often, but not always, based on party seniority. Last year, the board flipped from a Republican to Democrat majority — although commissioners have since not voted completely along party lines. Olson-Boseman has voted with White and Kusek on several contentious issues, including moving forward with an exploration of a sale of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center and cutting county funding for WAVE transit.
Last year, after the board flipped to a Democrat majority, Democrat Barfield was voted into the chair position as expected, replacing Republican Commissioner Woody White; Barfield, who is on track to be the board’s longest-serving member, clearly had seniority and received unanimous approval.
But, while many expected Democrat Commissioner Rob Zapple to receive the vice-chair position, White nominated Olson-Boseman; after White’s motion, Barfield nominated Zapple. Ultimately, Olson-Boseman took the vice-chair spot with a 3-2 vote; Barfield and Zapple voted against her nomination, White, Kusek, and Olson-Boseman herself voted for it.
On Monday afternoon, White nominated both Olson-Boseman and Kusek for the chair and vice-chair positions, respectively. The nominations were approved unanimously; the vote for Kusek involved a technicality — White, Olson-Boseman, and Kusek herself voted in favor, Barfield and Zapple did not vote. Under the Board’s rules of procedure — specifically, Rule 21, the ‘duty to vote’ — members of the board who remain silent during a vote and who are not excused from that vote are marked as having voted in the affirmative.
Moments after the vote, the county sent out a press release celebrating the “first time in the history of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners that two women will hold both the chair and vice-chair positions.”
The release in full read:
Every December, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners elects its chair and vice-chair. At the December 2 board meeting, Commissioner Julia Olson-Boseman was elected as chair and Commissioner Patricia Kusek was elected as vice-chair.
This is the first time in the history of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners that two women will hold both the chair and vice-chair positions.
“This is a momentous day for New Hanover County, to have two women elected to lead the board,” said Chairwoman Olson-Boseman. “I look forward to the coming year and the work this Board of Commissioners will accomplish on behalf of our community and our citizens.”
Agenda meetings removed
The board also took up the issue of agenda briefings, which has been something of a bone of contention between commissioners.
Barfield and Zapple have both said they are in favor of the meetings, while White has often said he thinks they are generally not called for. Over the last year, the commissioners have decided to cancel more than half of these meetings, although not by unanimous decision.
On Monday, the commissioners voted 3-2 to end the meetings altogether; the motion was supported by White, Kusek, and Chairwoman Olson-Boseman.