PITTSBORO — It surprised everyone.
Walter Petty — the lone Republican on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners — announced his resignation from the board Monday night, quoting from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes in that there is a time and a season for everything.
“I’m honored to have been a part of a team making Chatham County welcome to everybody,” Petty said. “I’ve learned a lot, and I appreciate the opportunity to serve. I’ve done my best and resign with no regrets.”
The announcement, made in front of a capacity crowd at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center, was met with some shouts of appreciation. One individual, possibly referencing Petty’s political affiliation, shouted from the audience, “You’re the only one we’ve got!”
Petty represents District 5, a seat he first earned in 2010 by defeating Democratic incumbent Carl Thompson Jr. A Chatham County native, Petty owns Atlantic Power Solutions, a company that sells and services generators for agricultural, commercial and industrial uses. While announcing his resignation, Petty mentioned wanting to dedicate more time to his business.
Petty said the decision had been a long time coming and that he’d spent the last year evaluating his options. He said he never thought he’d be on the board for more than a term, and said one of his greatest accomplishments was working to increase the county’s budget while maintaining the same property tax rate.
“I’ve focused on looking after taxpayers’ dollars as if they were my own,” Petty told commissioners and the audience. “I’ve done my best to stay away from party politics, partisan agendas. I’ve tried my best to serve all citizens based on the facts as I’ve understood them.”
At the end of his announcement, he was given a standing ovation by all the commissioners and the crowd, encouraged by commissioner Jim Crawford.
Later in the evening, Board Chairman Mike Dasher said Petty “really caught us all off-guard” with the announcement.
“He will be missed,” Dasher said. “He has served this county well (and) he has been an absolute pleasure to work with. I’ve just enjoyed getting to know him over the last couple years. We’re going to miss him.”
Commissioner Karen Howard added, “Walter and I have not always agreed politically, and we’ve had our share of battles, but you have always been a friend.”
Board Vice Chairman Diana Hales said she was surprised as well.
“It’s been an honor to serve with you, Walter, I really mean that,” she said.
At the close of the meeting, County Manager Dan LaMontagne thanked Petty.
“It has been an absolute pleasure working with you almost my whole time here,” LaMontagne said. “I appreciate you working for the citizens of this county and I appreciate your friendship.”
According to N.C. General Statute 153A-27, Petty’s replacement will be appointed by the commissioners. His replacement must be of the same political party and a resident of the same district. The board, the law states, “shall consult the county executive committee of the appropriate political party before filling a vacancy,” but the board is not required to select that person.
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