On Thursday evening, Forsyth County Commissioners chose their new officers, but it looks like it won’t be the last time they make such a decision this year.
In addition to choosing the positions – which saw Chairwoman Laura Semanson and Vice Chairwoman Cindy jones Mills retain those seats and District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper take over as the group secretary – commissioners also voted 4-1, with District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent opposed, to move the election of officers to the first regular meeting in November or the first meeting following a general election.
The new officers would still take office in January, but commissioners in favor of the change maintained that it would give a new chair time to learn the role before their term started.
Levent said he opposed the change because it would not allow new members of the board to vote on leadership.
“I just don’t think we should not allow a new board member to select their chair,” Levent said. “It seems like we think they don’t know what they’re doing enough, and that’s just a little bit arrogant I think. I just think they should have the right to elect their own chair.”
Cooper, who took office in 2019 and is the most recent to join the commission, said she was in favor of the change and would not have felt slighted by not voting on the chair in her first year.
“Whenever you come on, you don’t have the experience of working with the folks of the board, so coming in and voting on a chair, I think, it is certainly worth having the discussion for us to look at doing an early vote, of having a transition period with the new chair with the standing chair,” Cooper said before the vote.
Commissioners also voted 4-1, also with Levent opposed, to prohibit commissioners from using their cellphones and other devices during public hearings.
“I’m talking about texting or being online on social media during the hearings,” Semanson said. “Three things: one, I think from a transparency standpoint, it looks bad. Secondly, if there’s a conversation happening with a commissioner during the meeting, the public is entitled to know it, and thirdly, aside from the optics and the transparency … if you’re not engaged and you’re not listening, they’re not getting their due process.”
Semanson said the board had the rule as a “gentleman’s agreement for several months” in 2017 but it had not come back.
Levent said he was against the change because he wanted to be able to be contacted by family members during an emergency.