PITTSBORO — Jim Crawford will announce his resignation from the Chatham County Board of Commissioners at the board’s Dec. 20 meeting for personal reasons, he confirmed on Friday.
At that meeting, he will designate Dec. 31 as his last day as commissioner, Crawford said.
“For some time I have been trying to get my hypertension under control. I have a worrisome family history on this score, and so far the steps I have taken have not worked,” Crawford, who represents Dist. 4 in the county, told the News + Record in an email statement. “So, after discussions with my wife and daughter, I have determined that I must take steps to reduce stressors in my life so that I may live to a ripe old age.”
Crawford’s intended resignation came just ahead of the filing period for the 2022 election, in which the Dist. 3, Dist. 4 and Dist. 5 seats will each be contested. Filing for the 2022 election in Chatham started at noon Monday and ends at noon on Friday, Dec. 17; filing for the U.S. House, N.C. Senate and N.C. House were temporarily halted by the N.C. Court of Appeals shortly before the filing period was set to begin on Monday but resumed by Monday evening.
Commissioner Diana Hales, also elected in 2014, has said she won’t run for reelection for her Dist. 3 seat.
“I’ve been very pleased and proud to serve for, it will be eight years by the by December of 2022. And I’ve been very fortunate and pleased to serve to accomplish some significant goals I had when I was elected,” Hales told the News + Record, including progress on the county’s zoning and comprehensive land use plans, along with its efforts to increase affordable housing.
“I feel like I accomplished things I set out to do with this board, and because of a few health issues — and I’m also about to turn 75 — I thought it was time to step aside to see if we can have some younger vision elected to this board,” she said. “I’m glad to have been able to serve and I certainly will be following what happens in the county as time goes by, but I’ve been very, very blessed, as they say, to have had the opportunity.”
Hales has lived in rural Chatham for nearly 30 years and owns a farm on the Rocky River with her husband, Cheyney Hales. Since being elected to the board in 2014 and reelected in 2018, Hales has served as a liaison to the Climate Change Advisory Committee, Environmental Review Advisory Committee, as a voting member to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners Environment Committee, among others.
As a board member, she has regularly brought up water and conservation issues during development discussions, including the fracking moratorium put in place by the board should fracking come to Chatham. She serves as a member of several local nonprofits which protect Chatham’s environment and rivers.
Commissioner Franklin Gomez Flores, who filed for his Dist. 5 seat on Monday, said he is very thankful for the work both commissioners have done.
“As the most recent product of Chatham County on the Board of Commissioners, I know that our youth have better resources and opportunities than what I had growing up,” he told the News + Record of Hales and Crawford. “Thank you for investing in our future!”
The Chatham County Board of Commissioners is made up of five members, each representing one district, and elected for four-year, staggered terms. All commissioners are elected at-large, not just by the district they represent.
The board is currently comprised entirely of Democratic commissioners, since Gomez Flores narrowly defeated Wilkie to represent Dist. 5 in November 2020 for a two-year term. He will run for a full, four-year term next year.
With Crawford’s resignation, the board could look quite different following next November, given that two of the three seats will not contain any incumbents in the race. Restaurant owner Lewis Hendricks (Democrat) announced last Friday that he will run for the Dist. 3 seat, and filed for the seat on Monday. The Dist. 4 and Dist. 5 seats are also up for reelection.
Crawford’s resignation also means the Dist. 4 seat must be filled by an appointed replacement prior to the election. On Monday, two Democratic candidates filed for the seat: Rev. Albert Reddick and Katie Kenlan.
Under state law, the board will appoint a new commissioner to fill out the remaining year of the term, and can take or reject the recommendation of the Chatham County Democratic Party. The replacement must live in the 4th district to fill out Crawford’s term. (In 2019, former Rep. Commissioner Andie Wilkie was appointed to replace Rep. Commissioner Walter Petty following his resignation. Wilkie was defeated in the November 2020 election by Franklin Gomez Flores, Chatham's first Latino commissioner.)
“So far, no one has contacted me about taking the seat,” Crawford said last Friday, ahead of filing.
Since being elected to the board in 2014 and reelected in 2018, Crawford has served as the liaison on various boards and committees, including the Affordable Rental Housing Task Review, Board of Health, Chatham Economic Development Board of Directors, Chatham County Council on Aging and Regional Aging Council, and more. Before being elected, he served on the Chatham County Recreation Advisory Committee and the Chatham County Planning Board.
He served as chairperson of the board from 2015 to 2017 and was a big proponent of removing the Confederate statue from outside the county's historic courthouse, prior to its vote to be removed in August 2019 and removal that November.
Crawford intends to remain on the Central Carolina Board of Trustees, he said.
"I am very proud of my record as commissioner, especially the change in direction and great strides made by Chatham when I was chairman of the board," he told the News + Record. "It is my conviction that I am leaving the county's affairs in a better condition than when I found it. I am grateful to our outstanding, dedicated, and rollickingly good-natured staff."
"It has been an honor to serve with fine citizens on our county board and the region's affiliated bodies," Crawford said.
This story has been updated to reflect that a commissioner replacement must live in the district they'd represent.
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.
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