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Board re-elects Messer as chair

Charlie Messer and Larry Young, at a 2012 Board of Commissioners meeting. Charlie Messer and Larry Young, at a 2012 Board of Commissioners meeting.

Henderson County commissioners re-elected Charlie Messer as chairman on a 3-2 vote Monday night, selecting the incumbent leader over Commissioner Larry Young.

The vote came down to Young, the 11-year board veteran who wants the leadership role, and Messer, the fourth-term incumbent who could be reelected to lead the commissioners for a second consecutive year.

Commissioners Michael Edney and Tommy Thompson joined Messer in voting for Messer. Commissioner Grady Hawkins and Young voted for Young. After voting for chair, commissioners unanimously elected Thompson as vice chair.

In his vote, Hawkins voted for young and added, "I'm sorry we only count three for rotation." Hawkins had proposed that the board switch to mandatory rotation for chair. Over the past three years, Edney, Thompson and Messer have served one year apiece as chair.

Hawkins later said that he planned to attend the agenda meetings — which traditionally have included the chair and the county manager and more recently Messer and Thompson as vice chair and County Manager Steve Wyatt, meeting behind closed doors to schedule items for the next regular meeting. Attendance by three commissioners constitutes a quorum, and thus an open meeting under state law.

Hawkins said it's important that the public see what goes on in the agenda meetings.

The board has an abundance of political experience right now, and at times board members have clashed over spending and other issues.When it comes to spending on the new county Athletic and Activity Center or cutting taxes, Messer, Thompson and Edney have outvoted Hawkins and Young.

Thompson, who won a countywide election eight times during his 32 years as Clerk of Superior Court, is in the third year of his first term on the county commission. Grady Hawkins and Edney are both in their third terms. Messer won a fourth term last year and Young will be seeking a fourth term assuming he runs next year.

"We're not going to go rotation," Messer said earlier Monday. "I think we put a stop to that last time."
In the Nov. 20 meeting, Messer, Thompson and Edney all said they opposed the automatic rotation idea that Hawkins pitched and preferred to stick to their current practice. Currently the board elects its chair yearly, at the first meeting in December. It has not traditionally limited the number of terms the chair can serve, although for the past three years the board has chosen a new leader every December.
"I'm not going to campaign for it," Messer said. "I would do it if they want me to do it."

Before he proposed the mandatory rotation, Hawkins suggested the board could switch to a countywide election of the chair. Commissioners dropped the idea, in part because it would require the Legislature to change the law.