SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners appointed James “Jay” Underwood to Mayor Chip Price’s unexpired at-large commissioner seat in a special meeting Monday.
The board originally convened to interview Underwood and Donald Matthews, both of whom unsuccessfully sought election to the board in May before applying for Price’s seat. They were expected to be interviewed separately, with commissioners then voting by ballot to decide the winner. But during time provided to him to make a five-minute opening statement, Matthews announced to commissioners he was withdrawing his candidacy for the at-large position.
“I went to the VA [Veterans Administration] today and there are some things that I have to immediately take care of,” he said through tears.
Matthews told the board that an upcoming surgical procedure wouldn’t allow him to give his full commitment to the position if he were selected.
“For me to go and proceed with this would be selfish on my part,” Matthews said. “I wish you guys the best because this can be the best place to live in the state if you guys work together for the common good.”
After Matthews’s withdrawal, commissioners went on with the questioning process for Underwood. While he was the only candidate left to choose from, Siler City Commissioner Norma Boone said it was important for the board to follow the protocols the board set.
“I would still like for us to do the questioning because we still need to know where he is on some of these issues,” Boone said.
The board asked Underwood an array of questions, mostly regarding why he wanted to become a commissioner. Underwood’s response: he wants to make Siler City a place children want to move back to once they complete their education.
He drew from his personal experience, saying his eldest daughter recently had to move to Virgina to find work because of the lack of employment opportunities in Siler City.
“I was really hoping she’d find something closer to home, but unfortunately there’s nothing around here,” he said. “I’d love to see Siler City to what we used to have — we had industry, we had businesses, and we had young adults staying in town. Now, unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
Underwood said Monday that prior to his campaign, he had no political experience. He hoped to be able to learn on the job and play a role in improving the town and prospects for its residents.
“I just want to be able to get something here, and for our youth to be proud of the town they came from,” Underwood said.
Underwood is expected to be sworn in by the time of the board’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Aug. 1.
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.
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