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Before the election, many astute political observers in Guilford County
would have bet money that Gibson would win his race, though there was a clear sense that Perkins was in serious trouble in his run.
Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, who wasn't up for reelection this time, said there were also other Democrats who might have been elected the next chairman if the Democrats had held a majority on the board.
"Paul wanted to be chairman," Coleman said, adding that she also suspects Democratic Commissioner Kay Cashion wanted the job as well.
Alston said that, since the Republicans now rule the board, Shaw is the clear and logical choice to lead the board in the coming year.
"It should be Linda Shaw's to turn down," Alston said of the chairmanship.
He said she's currently the vice chairman and has done a terrific job in that position. He added that Shaw is the longest serving Republican on the board.
"I know that Linda can do it," he said. "She would make an excellent chair."
Alston also said he expects the new commissioners on the board will defer to Shaw's seniority.
"I think they should respect that," Alston said.
Alston said Shaw has another important qualification as well.
"She's like the mother of the board," he said.
Alston is stepping down on Dec. 3, but the blessing of such a powerful Democratic figure in Guilford County
still goes along way in providing Democratic support for Shaw – not to mention the fact that, in addition to Alston's influence, Shaw gets along very well with the many Democrats on the board.
Also, it's rare when a newly elected commissioner becomes chairman. The last time that happened was when Steve Arnold was elected chairman in December 1990. Arnold served as chairman of the board until December 1991 when he was elected vice chairman.
On the new nine-member board, it takes five votes to get something done, but it appears as though Shaw and Bencini may get more votes than they need since there's a desire among many commissioners – Democrats and Republicans alike – to display more unity and less strife than the board has in the past.
Raymond Trapp, the Democratic successor to Alston in District 8, who was hand-picked by Alston to take over that seat, said that, given the nature of the next board – one with a Republican majority – Shaw and Bencini would be natural choices to lead the board since they're the two senior Republican commissioners.
Shaw said she thought it would be a good thing for Bencini to use the vice chairman position to deal largely with High Point issues. She said Bencini, as a highly respected representative of High Point who served on the High Point City Council before being elected to the Board of Commissioners, would be a perfect choice to fulfill many of the board's leadership duties in High Point. She said he could attend grand openings, cut ribbons and speak at public events.
Newly elected Henning said he wants the next chairman of the Guilford County
Board of Commissioners to be someone who can help the board work together on a bipartisan basis. He said Shaw seems like she would be fair to both parties.
"Linda is experienced," he said, adding that in the past that she's shown an ability to work with both parties.
Newly elected Phillips said there was a feeling among some on the board that the new commissioners weren't really prepared to become chairman, but he said he believes commissioners need to consider the possibility that one of the new Republicans could make a good chairman.
One source said they thought that Phillips wanted to be chairman despite being brand new to the board, and Phillips does sound like someone with an interest in leading the board. He said that simply being new doesn't disqualify one from being the chairman or vice chairman.
"We need to keep an open mind," Phillips said. "I think we need all options on the table. I would not be closed-minded to anyone."
Alston said it really helps to have a seasoned commissioner as chairman because there's so much involved with the job. Alston should know: He's been chairman five times – more than any other commissioner in the modern era.
"It's pretty time consuming if you really take it seriously," Alston said of the chairman's job. "There are a lot of meetings and ribbon cuttings. There are a lot of conversations with the manager; I talk to the manager every day, or at least every other day."
Alston added that a chairman has to be able to pick up the phone and call a political opponent to find common ground on even contentious issues. He also said that the chairman needs to have a good understanding of Robert's Rules of Order. He said he learned by years of running NAACP committees and heading up the North Carolina Real Estate Commission.
Alston added that he's taken classes in running meetings. He said that, if a chairman can't run a meeting well, and doesn't know the rules of order, the others on the board tend to lose respect for that chairman.
"You can't just get up there and wing it," Alston said.