HARRISBURG, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Neighbors in Harrisburg say they’re feeling unheard following the appointment of a new town council member.
On Monday, the town council appointed Republican Pastor Mike Thevenin to fill a seat vacancy left by Democrat Diamond Staton-Williams. Staton-Williams resigned her seat after being elected to the North Carolina State House of Representatives. She was one year into a four-year term.
Town Board is tasked with appointing a temporary replacement whenever a vacancy is left on the board. While they are not required to hold public hearings regarding their choice, some wonder whether their appointment reflects the voters’ wants.
According to Mayor Jennifer Teague, the town asked for letters of interest before selecting a person to fill the vacancy. Four people submitted interest, including Pastor Thevenin. After privately emailing town board members, asking them to review the letters and submit their recommendations, Mayor Teague canceled a public meeting called specifically to review the potential candidates.
“After hearing from each council member individually, there was one name that rose to the front, and therefore, I canceled the meeting for last Friday,” said Mayor Teague at Monday’s board meeting.
Thevenin was sworn in within the first five minutes of Monday’s town board meeting before the opportunity for public comment.
“The problem is voters are not being heard,” said Kim Biondi, a Cabarrus County resident associated with Red, Wine, and Blue NC, an organization dedicated to empowering suburban women to get involved in local politics. “I think they could have avoided all of this if they just had the public meeting.”
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Prior to her departure, Staton-Williams was one of only two Democrats on the eight-member board. Councilman Rick Russo, the other Democrat, was the sole opposing vote to Thevenin’s appointment.
“I just don’t think that he aligns with Diamond’s values, issues, or stance on any issue,” he told Queen City News.
Russo also says he was never made privy to the rest of the board’s choice, despite asking Mayor Teague to clue him in on the discussion.
“I emailed her two days before the meeting and asked her, ‘can you tell me who everybody agreed on?’ She said, ‘No. Five people agreed on one person, and one person agreed on another person,'” said Russo.
Mayor Teague told Queen City News that she recommended Thevenin to the rest of the board.
Before the appointment, Staton-Williams released a statement expressing her wish to see another woman of color appointed to the board.
“The people of Harrisburg elected a woman of color, and they deserve a woman of color to represent them,” it said, in part.
Since Thevenin’s appointment, Staton-Williams told Queen City News, “I believe the events I have read surrounding the appointment of Pastor Mike Thevenin to Harrisburg Town Council are interesting. I have and will continue to urge residents to pay attention to the council and council meetings.”
According to Mayor Teague, Thevenin is a long-term resident of Harrisburg, engaged in the community as an Associate Pastor of Multiply Church Harrisburg, participated in Harrisburg’s Citizen Academy, and was currently serving on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
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Thevenin will hold Staton-Williams’ seat for 11 months, and then voters will choose who will finish the final two years of her term in the November election. Four other board seats are up for a vote as well.
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