The Lee County Board of Commissioners on Monday voted Republican Kirk Smith the board’s newest chairman, according to a press release issued by the county.
Smith received votes from himself and fellow Republicans Andre Knecht, Bill Carver, and Arianna Lavallee (formerly Del Palazzo), who will be the board’s new vice chair.
Democrats Cameron Sharpe and Mark Lovick – both of whom did cast their votes for Lavallee for vice chair – voted against Smith. Democrat Robert Reives was absent.
Smith, who is in his third non-consecutive term on the board after winning the 2018 race by just 55 votes, was likely the most controversial choice available among the board’s Republicans. As recently as June, several citizens attended a meeting of the Board of Commissioners to decry social media comments he made that were perceived by many as racist.
But the recent backlash against Smith is essentially just the latest in his history of controversy. Both as an elected official and a private citizen, he’s made divisive public statements on a number of topics going back nearly 20 years. They include calling environmental activists names like “eco-marxists,” advocating that low income students in public schools be given peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, voting no on scholarship opportunities for young people attending Central Carolina Community College, making false statements about other elected officials and then blaming the county staff, bizarrely claiming that Nazi organizations were dominated by something called “the virtuous macho gay male,” flip flopping on coal ash when it became beneficial to do so, attacking the service of a combat wounded veteran, referring to the media as an “enemy of the people,” targeting student athletes at Central Carolina Community College for locking their arms in solidarity during the playing of the national anthem, and even calling the COVID-19 pandemic which as of this writing had killed 284,000 Americans “political hype.”
Smith and Lavallee will be chair and vice chair until December 2021.
Meanwhile, multiple residents forwarded The Rant a screenshot of a Facebook comment by Sharpe calling President Donald Trump a “dead loser” and a “shit bag” on a video of a recent Trump rally in Georgia.
Sharpe confirmed he wrote the post and said he regretted his choice of words but not his “frustration and sentiment.”
“When I made that comment, I was getting ready to be a pallbearer for a friend and fellow Commissioner who died from COVID,” he said in a statement, referring to the recent death of Commissioner Kevin Dodson. “I see the President holding super spreader events to protest an election that he lost with no regard for people attending and health care workers who will have to take care of them like my wife. I was at my tipping point and used language that I should not have. It was an emotional time and I made the statement in haste. It is time for this country to come together and fight this pandemic. It is real.”