Lee County’s most influential, controversial and outspoken public official will not seek a third term on the board of commissioners, The Sanford Herald reported today.
Jim Womack — first elected to the county seat in November 2010 — quoted Ecclesiastes 3:1 (or the Byrds) in his public statement: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Now is the season for me to focus on my family’s needs and to let another highly qualified conservative take up the mantle of service on the Board of Commissioners.”
His decision puts an end to one of the most interesting political tenures Lee County has ever seen. A relative unknown when he announced his run in spring 2010, Womack was part of the Republican wave that dominated the election that year in North Carolina and nationwide. As the new leaders in Raleigh began gutting the social infrastructure of the state, Womack and Co. focused on county property taxes and the school system. After getting off on the wrong foot — the new conservative board’s first big vote was approving a $10,000 pay bonus to the county manager, a move that confused local Tea Party loyalists — the new majority focused on budget cuts. In 2013, the commissioners lowered Lee County’s property tax from 75 cents per $100 valuation to 72 cents.
But Womack will also be remembered for his public clashes with the school board (click HERE and HERE, too), his off-the-cuff emails about running over the county manager with a tank and firing the county attorney and his “anonymous” blog, which began during his candidacy in 2010 and continued three years into his tenure as commissioner. The blog was the focus of a big piece in the Independent Weekly in 2013, an article that pointed out multiple incendiary comments against local, state and national Democratic officials.
He’s also caused a stir as chairman of the State Mining and Energy Commission and has been a vocal proponent of horizontal drilling (a.k.a. “fracking”) in Lee County. As commissioner, he voted to dissolve Lee County’s Environment Affairs Board, a board designed to advise the county on environmental policies, because he felt the board lacked knowledge of “the impact of oil and gas and methane plumes.”
Womack’s departure may signal the end of Republican rule on the county board for the next term, at least. Joining Jim out the door is Republican Board Chairman Charlie Parks; and running in their places this November will be newcomer Chris Delambert and Siler City police officer Kevin Dodson. Though one can argue that “end” began in 2012, when all three Republicans running that year received fewer votes than the two Democrats, Amy Dalrymple and Ricky Frazier. The Lee County Democratic Party failed to run a third candidate that year (independent Ron Hewett finished last), so Kirk Smith (the top vote-getting Republican who finished third) won a seat by default.
What else does it mean? Well … The Rant just got a whole lot less interesting.
Good luck, Jim. I guess we’ll see you in 2015 when you’re appointed to replace a Republican who has suddenly decided to step down.