November 28, 2014

Woodard would accept board chairmanship,
says TowneBank not a factor


Monday, Dec. 1, marks the beginning of a new chapter in Dare County politics when the newly-elected members of the Dare County Board of Commissioners are sworn into office and a  chairman and vice-chairman are chosen for the coming year.

The chairmanship is considered the most powerful position on the board because the chairman controls the agenda. That position has been held by Democrat Warren Judge for about 12 of the last 14 years.

But now, Republicans will be the majority on the board for the first time since the mid-1980s, and it is presumed that there will be a new chairman with that party affiliation.

“I can't predict how a possible change in chairmanship might change how things are done,” said Dare County Republican Chairman Browny Douglas. “But those who voted in the recent election sent a clear signal that they want change, so it's hard to imagine that there won't be any.”

The defeat of Democratic incumbents Max Dutton and Virginia Tillett by Republicans Beverly Boswell and Margarette Umphlett, respectively, and Republican incumbents Jack Shea and Wally Overman maintaining their seats has given the GOP a five-member majority on the seven-member board.

Commissioner Bob Woodard, a Republican midway through his first term, is widely predicted to be the next chairman. Woodard was in the middle of his third term on the Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners when elected to the county board. He also serves as the chairman of the Albemarle Commission, one of the state's five regional development and planning commissions.

Woodard's employment with TowneBank insurance has raised speculations about whether his employer would allow him to serve in light of controversies with other employees holding public office in Virginia.

Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, an employee of TowneBank, is on administrative leave from the financial institution after coming under fire for failing to recuse himself in about five dozen votes that favored the bank's loan clients. In addition, Sessoms voted to sell city property below the appraised value to TowneBank borrowers. The Commonwealth Attorney Colin Stollie has asked for a special prosecutor to be named to investigate the dealings.

The controversy has prompted TowneBank to ask several other employees and/or board members who serve in elected positions to step away from their positions with the bank or their elected positions.

But those employees worked in the finance arena of the corporation, and Woodard works solely on the insurance side of the company.

Woodard said that he doesn't know who the board will choose as chairman, but he would be honored to fill that role if asked.

“I've been very fortunate that both my former and current employers have been very into supporting [its workers] giving back to the community,” said Woodard. “I have discussed the possibility of serving as chairman with my superiors, and they are fine with it.

“I'm not a corporate bank officer, so I don't make loans or have anything to do with that. Whenever there is any question about propriety, I always ask the attorney. And if necessary, I recuse myself.

“I always try to do the right thing and ask that people know me for the way I am.”

Earlier this year, TowneBank insurance was one of two companies that made pitches related to the county's medical insurance. Woodard asked to be recused and left the room during the presentations and the subsequent vote. TowneBank did not win the contract.

The new and re-elected board members will be sworn in at the meeting that begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 1. Choosing the chairman and vice-chairman to serve for the next year will be the first order of business.

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