Bunting Retains Commission Presidency In 4-3 Vote

SNOW HILL – Jim Bunting will continue to serve as president of the Worcester County Commissioners following a split vote this week.

On Tuesday, the commissioners voted 4-3 to reelect Bunting as president. Commissioners Merrill Lockfaw, Joe Mitrecic and Bud Church voted against electing Bunting. This is the third year the District 6 representative will lead the board.

“I think it was time for a new president,” Mitrecic said.

The votes to fill the offices of president and vice president took place at the start of Tuesday’s meeting, following a closed session in which the matter was essentially decided. According to Mitrecic, a vocal advocate for transparency in government, he consulted the county’s attorney at the start of the closed meeting.

“I asked the county attorney if we should be talking about it and she did not have a clear cut opinion,” he said, pointing out that in the past the election of officers had always taken place behind closed doors. “I made the motion that it was to be voted on out front. In the past it hasn’t been, it’s just been reported.”

During the closed session, Bunting advised his fellow commissioners he wanted to serve a third year as president.

“Quite honestly this would’ve been a year I should have been president,” said Lockfaw, who served two years as vice president.

He said he was “due to move up” to the role of president two years ago but he didn’t because his wife was ill. Bunting was elected instead. Bunting asked his peers to give him a second year as president in 2015. He followed that up with a request for a third year as president this week.

“Last year he said he’d like to do it one more year and at that point he was going to step aside,” Mitrecic said. “He went back on his word.”

Mitrecic said he had planned to support Lockfaw for president.

“The commissioners have always taken turns being president,” he said.

Lockfaw said he wanted the leadership role but that Bunting received the needed four votes.

“He got the support,” Lockfaw said. “I just felt it was time for a change.”

Following the vote, Bunting thanked his supporters.

“I thank the support of the four and hope I can gain the support of the three that did not vote,” he said.

The commissioners selected Diana Purnell to serve as vice president with a 6-1 vote. Lockfaw was the only vote of opposition.

“I think Diana will do a good job,” he said. “Certainly there are some commissioners that have more experience.”

Bunting praised the board’s selection of Purnell.

“It’s a great day for Worcester County,” he said. “We have our first African Native American female to hold the office of vice president of the Worcester County Commissioners. Gender and race is not really important. I think she is probably one of the best candidates for the position.”

Purnell thanked those who voted for her and said she was pleased to bring recognition to her tribe in North Carolina.

“When you love people you recognize people,” she said. “We are all family. We work together. We share this county and I’m going to continue to serve in that respect.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.