By Chad Nance
In a surprise move Thursday and with a secret ballot, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners appointed political unknown Irene May over former school board candidate Lori Goins Clark to fill Rep. Donny Lambeth’s seat until the 2014 election. May, who has not been a public figure beyond her advocacy of an internet conspiracy theory about educational tools used by the W-S/Forsyth County School System known as Systems Thinking, was a surprise choice to most of those at the meeting.
The first business of the meeting was the swearing in of Mark Baker to fill Debra Conrad’s seat.
Following that Chairman Linville began the discussion by addressing the fact that the GOP Executive Committee’s nominee, David Regnery, had withdrawn his name from nomination following revaluations about his extremist political activity and his alleged criminal activity presented by local media including the Camel City Dispatch. Linville treated Regnery like Lord Voldermort in the Harry Potter novels by refusing to say his name and referring to him vaguely. Later during the meeting Commissioner Bill Whiteheart did not say Regnery’s name, but he praised Regnery and never acknowledged the facts that have come out about him including the allegation that Regnery has lied to authorities about his address in order to obtain a Class 3 weapons license.
A sharp debate ensued about whether, in light of Regnery backing out, the board should hold the vote for Rep. Lambeth’s replacement over for a week or two. Republican David Plyler pointed out that “Haste makes waste,” and indicated that he had nine individual emails from people who wanted to nominate others or themselves for the empty School Board seat. Commissioner Plyler also pointed out that the legality of entire process for selecting Rep. Lambeth’s replacement remains in doubt. (CCD coverage HERE) “We are in a gray area. Once again the State of North Carolina has not done its job.”
Commissioners Wisenhunt and Whiteheart stated they they wanted to vote immediately saying that they already knew everything they needed to know from any of the possible nominees. Newly appointed Commissioner Mark Baker said only one sentence. “I feel comfortable voting today.” Chairman Linville indicated that he wished to also vote Thursday. All of those for voting immediately were the same Commissioners who had previously stated they would vote for David Regnery.
Commissioner Everette Witherspoon came down on the side of delaying the vote in order to allow the Commissioners more time to vet possible candidates. Bill Whiteheart pointed out that all of the candidates who were left had been vetted by the GOP Executive Committee. Commissioner Whiteheart failed to mention that this is the same committee that “vetted” David Regnery.
The strongest vote against making a rush appointment was made by Commissioner Walter Marshall. He was pointed in his criticisms of the entire process and its questionable legality. “I can’t believe this.” Marshall continued, pointing out that Donny Lambeth had been elected in a non-partisan election. “At least give the appearance that you want to be fair.”
“You had no authority to do what you did.” Commissioner Marshall said referring to the GOP Executive Committee’s nomination of David Regnery. “Only thing he had to serve a purpose was to shoot guns.” Mr. Marshall stated. “How can I have faith in any type of decision after that.”
At one point Commissioner Whiteheart grew irritated and red-faced as he and Mr. Marshall argued over parliamentary procedure. Once the debate was done and the votes cast it was decided 4-3 that the selection would take place immediately.
A recess was taken, a list prepared, and upon return the candidates who had been nominated were given two minutes a piece to make their case. Lori Goins Clark repeated a solid performance from the GOP Executive Committee meeting. (CCD coverage HERE) Irene May took her two minutes to strike a very different tone than the one she stuck at the Executive Committee meeting and in other public meetings. There was no mention of the internet conspiracy theories about systems thinking, American Exceptionalism, or incorrect assertions that Common Core is a Federal mandate. (It is not.) Gone were her previous public reverences to a laundry list of am radio hot-button issues replaced by pretty standard political fair about wanting to help “the children”.
Following those ladies were several other candidates. Those in the room who had been following this process gave odds to Lori Goins Clark because of her competency and the fact that she had come close to outright winning a seat on the School Board in the last election. There was some shock after the commissioners voted and Irene May’s name was read out loud.
Who is Irene May?
Beyond the fact that she is unemployed, has been involved in the PTA in her children’s schools and was at one time a veterinary assistant… very little. Mrs. May has never truly been vetted by an election process or by the press.
What she has done is made public statements in School Board meetings regarding Systems Thinking, which seems to be a major focus of her ire, and that of her apparent political sponsor, school board member Jeannie Metcalf, with whom May sat during the GOP Executive Committee meeting and Thursday’s Commissioner’s meeting. In one meeting attended by CCD staff (HERE) May made statements calling System’s Thinking “Indoctrination” and worried that it teaches against State sanctioned religion. (Much the way the Constitution of the United States does.) May stated that Systems Thinking taught a religion in which there were no “God or gods”, that it teaches “Environmental Reverence”, and it promoted a green energy and environmental agenda which she objects to because she doesn’t believe in climate change. Irene May said she believes in a “Global Society”, she believes in a “Global Economy”, but she does not believe in “Global Citizens”. If some of the terms May has used seem strange it is because these are the tropes and buzz words of America’s extreme right-wing as exhibited in internet conspiracy web-sites, and am radio hosts like Glenn Beck. If that is the sort of world-view and thought process that one has, the selection of May will be welcomed. Those gathered today for the appointment left the room stunned, however, by the turn of events.