The Garner Town Council appointed Nancy Anderson to serve on the Garner Volunteer Fire and Rescue board of directors to replace Jimmy Jones, who will step down after two two-year terms.
Anderson, a retired town clerk from the City of Albany, N.Y., currently serves as vice president of the Garner Police Athletics/Activities League, or PAAL. She would join Joe Sample and Jeanette Hagwood as town-appointed members on the seven-member board after an awkward vote that initially caught the boards president off-guard.
I was honored to be asked. Ive had a lot of experience in my professional career working with uniformed personnel: police and fire, said Anderson, who moved to Garner four years ago. I think that while the board doesnt micromanage, I think the experience I bring as the (former) manager of a large government office I hope that can be helpful.
The council essentially flipped a coin between Anderson and Claude Jenkins at the councils work session Tuesday. Jenkins serves as Garner PAALs treasurer and is friends with Anderson. Council members had been asked for nominations, and each had responded positively to a council members inquiry into their interest.
The council decided to pick their appointee right there, and Anderson won a 3-2 vote. The board requested an appointee by its Sept. 10 meeting who would be officially elected and sworn-in mid-November.
We know these people; theres no conflict of interest, said mayor Ronnie Williams, who doesnt vote on appointments. Either one of them is fine with me.
Jones, highly respected by the fire chief and board, called his time a great learning experience, and said a new set of eyes could prove beneficial. He also said hes wanted to travel since he retired five years ago but hasnt been able to.
If you are going to serve, you need to be at every meeting you possibly can, Jones said. I really think weve come a long way in the last four years. I believe weve got a top-notch organization. Good leadership, good employees.
Votes are uncommon but legal in work sessions, town attorney Bill Anderson said at the session. In that less-formal setting around the council room table, the voting process proved awkward, as all council members liked both options.
After rushing through motions for a vote and not seconding the nomination of Jenkins four raised their hands to vote for Nancy Anderson. When Jenkins name was called, at least three of the five voting members raise their hands in support, some merely switching hands in the air.
Im not sure what I just witnessed, the town attorney said.
The council laughed it off, gathered itself, and formally voted a second time; this time Gra Singleton, Kathy Behringer and mayor pro tem Jackie Johns voted for Nancy Anderson.
I wont raise my left one this time, Singleton said before Buck Kennedy and Ken Marshburn voted for Jenkins.
Fire board president Steve Woodall questioned the suddenness of the appointment immediately after the vote. He said traditionally the town ran a name by the board and the board was able to make sure it was a good fit before the appointment was made.
And this time, bam, here it went, Woodall said.
Singleton said to Woodall that ultimately, the decision was the towns to make.
Like I said (at the meeting), Ive got no problem with Nancy. I dont know Nancy. Im sure shes a good person and good candidate, Woodall said. It really doesnt bother me, it was just a little different than what I expected. It just kind of hit me off-guard I guess.
Sample said the board Anderson would join hasnt been in this good shape since he started.
It was the easiest budget year in the five years that Ive been on the fire board, Sample said before adding that the process remains imperfect. Were always going to have a needs list, and theres never going to be enough money to fill that needs list. But now the town understands that they are needs, not wants.
The board of the independent agency contracted by Garner and Wake County has had three town-appointed members since 2010. (Jones was town appointed in 2009, but then the town chose only one member). A 2010 embezzlement scandal led to the fire chiefs resignation, his assistants incarceration and crippled finances and credibility for the agency.
Since then, new chief Matt Poole has worked to rebuild the reputation, and the town has gone through finances with a fine-toothed comb. Jones helped lead the department back to respectability, according to both Poole and Woodall.
I think Jimmy needs some recognition for the service he provides for his community, Poole said. During his tenure he provided a lot of valuable insight to our board. He brought in a lot of ideas and helped us through a lot of difficult times.
Hagwood, newest to the board after joining last November, said Jones has been a great teacher and mentor in a stressful year of catch-up, and that the agency has benefited from more transparent finances.
The processes and relationships continue to get better, Hagwood said.
Hagwood is currently running for Town Council. If she wins one of the two seats, she would be required by law to step down from the fire board.
Jahner: 919-829-4822; Twitter: @GarnerCleveland