Commentary: Who will fill vacant seat on W-S City Council?

Commentary: Who will fill vacant seat on W-S City Council?
May 11
13:42 2020

Last week the city was disheartened to learn of the passing of longtime public servant Mayor Tempore Vivian H. Burke. 

Burke, who was a native of Charlotte, was elected to the board of alderman (now city council) in 1977. Throughout her 43 years of service on the board of alderman and city council, Burke served as chair of the Public Safety Committee and led the push to bring major changes to the Winston-Salem Police Department, including establishing the Citizen’s Police Review Board. Burke also pushed to have more qualified black people in positions of power and to have women recognized. She is credited for starting the Outstanding Women Leaders award. Burke also initiated the annual Citywide Neighborhood Conference, the East Winston Economic Development Initiative and the Burke-Jones Scholarship Award. 

Burke died late Tuesday, May 5. She was 85. 

When discussing Burke’s legacy and the impact she had on the citizens of Winston-Salem, Mayor Allen Joines said, “Councilmember Vivian Burke was a remarkable woman who leaves a legacy of accomplishment that shaped the city that is Winston-Salem today. Her death leaves a void in our civic life that cannot be easily filled.”

Last year Burke announced that she would not be running for re-election for the first time in over four decades. Although Burke’s daughter-in-law, Barbara Hanes-Burke, defeated Morticia “Tee-Tee” Parmon and Keith King in the primary election for the vacant Northeast Ward seat, Burke’s term doesn’t officially end until December, which raises the question: Who will represent the constituents of the Northeast Ward for the next seven months? 

While it may seem reasonable to allow Hanes-Burke to start her term on the city council early, it’s not that simple. 

As reported by The Chronicle in March, longtime city native Paula McCoy has announced her plans to run in the general election as an unaffiliated candidate for the seat in the Northeast Ward, which means Hanes-Burke technically hasn’t won the seat yet. This could also cause issues for the local school board. Hanes-Burke has been a member of the board of education since 2018 and the board would have to find someone to fill her vacancy a lot sooner than planned.

When discussing her decision to run, McCoy, who is the former executive director of the Northwest Child Development Corporation and Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods, said her campaign is about offering Winston-Salem a “new way forward.”

Recent history shows us that the city council does have the power to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. In 2018 when Rep. Derwin Montgomery, who is a co-owner of The Chronicle, was chosen by Ed Hanes to represent District 72 in the N.C. General Assembly, the city council wanted to select Montgomery’s replacement, but that didn’t sit well with residents in the East Ward. Instead of picking Montgomery’s replacement, city officials decided to let the Forsyth County Democratic Party (FCDP) recommend a candidate and let the council vote on whether to approve. 

If the city council chooses to fill a vacancy, city council members would nominate candidates from a pool of applicants who will be required to write an essay on issues facing the city. The council would then vote until they have two finalists. The finalists would then have the opportunity to make comments and answer questions from the council, and the candidate who receives the most votes would become the new representative for the ward. 

Another option to fill the vacancy would be a special election. A special election would require executive committee members from the Democratic and Republican parties that reside in the Northeast Ward to select one nominee each. Those two would be put on a ballot for a special election where only residents of the Northeast Ward could vote. 

While the final decision will ultimately be left up to the city council, it hasn’t stopped residents from making their own suggestions on who should fill the seat. Sources say several names have been mentioned including Morticia “Tee-Tee” Parmon and Keith King, who were both defeated by Hanes-Burke in the primary. 

Burke’s longtime friend and retired educator Naomi Jones has also been mentioned as a possibility. Jones is the president emeritus of the Liberty Street Redevelopment. 

Although a timetable hasn’t been set to fill the vacancy, the topic is sure to come up during committee meetings this week and other meetings in weeks to come. 

About Author

Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors