Rockwell Board of Aldermen votes to have four year staggered terms

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, March 15, 2023

ROCKWELL — The town’s Board of Aldermen voted during the meeting Monday night to amend the town’s charter and board members will now have four-year staggered terms.

After holding a public hearing and  discussing the issue, the aldermen voted 5-0 to make the change.

Currently, all five of the aldermen are up for election this year. To make the terms staggered, the three aldermen elected with the most votes in November will automatically have four-year terms; their next election will be in 2027. The two aldermen elected with the lowest vote total will have a two-year term and be up for election again in 2025. The winners of the two open seats in the 2025 election will then serve a four-year-term and those seats will be up for election again in 2029.

Each of the Rockwell aldermen agreed that only two years on the board is not enough time for the aldermen to get situated to do their job.

“The biggest problem is a year after we’re in this office, we’re already running again,” Alderman Chuck Bowman said. “It’s just too short.”

Dillon Brewer, who is the newest of the five aldermen and currently in his first term, also explained that it took him about six months to start feeling comfortable to speak up at board meetings.

“Mainly because I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I wanted to get comfortable and when you look at that now, I’ve only got a year and six months left in my term,” Brewer said.

He also mentioned that most other elected bodies also have staggered elections, including the U.S. Senate, the U.S.  House of Representatives, the N.C. General Assembly and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

“Everything is staggered and that’s for a reason… to prevent an entire body of government from being flipped in one election cycle,” he said.

Alderwoman Stephanie Walker also mentioned the new housing developments that are being built in Rockwell, saying that potential residents who are moving into town could decide to run and change the town board completely.

“If all the residents of those two neighborhoods banded together then they could vote everybody out at one fell swoop for people who haven’t been in Rockwell for more than a couple years,” she said. “Not that any of us are trying to save our jobs or anything like that — anybody can run. I just think the times have changed and it would be a huge problem if the whole board and even the mayor were voted out to all new people that have not been here.”

Rockwell Mayor Beauford Taylor said he thought the question should be put on the November ballot for Rockwell voters to decide. The mayor will continue to have a two-year term.

But the aldermen disagreed: delaying the change will only make the process more difficult.

“If there was a lot of disagreement and we had a lot of public opinion against, then it makes sense to put it on the ballot and let the people vote, but we’re hearing very little dissent and I think all the aldermen are in favor,” Walker said.

Brewer said he did not think a lot of people would come out to vote on the matter.

In other action, the board voted unanimously to approve a request from The Morning Glory, a mobile coffee shop based in Rockwell, for a special use permit that will allow the coffee shop to build a restaurant with a drive-thru window. After the board approved the permit, the room filled with cheers and applause for The Morning Glory owners who were in attendance.

The board also unanimously voted to approve a voluntary proposal by the town to relinquish portions of Rockwell’s extra territorial jurisdiction back to Rowan County. The reason for the proposal is Rockwell would have less oversight on these jurisdictions; it would be the county’s responsibility. Notices were sent out to all property owners who would be affected by the change, according to town officials.