Commissioners, sheriff sworn in; Higdon and Young unanimously elected chair, vice chair

Judge Roy Wijewickrama administers the Oath of Office to incoming Sheriff Brent Holbrooks who was accompanied by wife, Sarah, and children.

Dan Finnerty – Contributing Writer

A new era of Macon County government began Dec. 5 in a packed fourth floor courtroom at the county courthouse in Franklin. Due to the large turnout, county commissioners chose an alternate location instead of the third floor commission boardroom, but attendees still witnessed standing-room-only, with still some people not able to fit inside the room. 

North Carolina Special Statute 153A-39 directs that “on the first Monday in December of each even numbered year, counties will select a county board of commissioners’ chairman and vice chairman. The chairman is the presiding officer of the board and unless excused by rule of the board, the presiding officer has the duty to vote on any question before the board but has no right to break a tie vote in which he or she participated.”

As his last official action in the position, outgoing Macon County Commission chairman Jim Tate called the meeting to order at 6:05 p.m. and immediately passed the gavel to County Manager Derek Roland, who introduced the Honorable District Court Judge Roy Wijewickrama. Judge Wijewickrama then administered the oaths of office for newly elected commissioners Danny Antoine and John Shearl, as well as Gary Shields, who was re-elected to his position. Also sworn in was Register of Deeds Todd Raby.

Roland opened the floor for nomination of a new board chairman and vice-chairman. The commissioners unanimously nominated incumbents Paul Higdon and Josh Young to those positions, respectively. Next, formal approval of the sheriff’s bond for Sheriff-elect Brent Holbrooks took place, followed by delivery of the bond to the Clerk of Superior Court for registration. According to North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 162, Article 2, “The sheriff shall furnish a bond payable to the State of North Carolina for the due execution and return of process, the payment of fees and monies collected, and the faithful execution of his office as sheriff.” Further, “The amount of the bond shall be determined by the board of county commissioners, but shall not exceed twenty-five thousand dollars.”

Next on the agenda was administration of the oath of office for Sheriff-elect Brent Holbrooks by Judge Roy Wijewickrama. Holbrooks was joined by his wife, Sarah, and their children before informing those in attendance that he would be using his great-grandmother’s Bible for the swearing in. Holbrooks then asked his father, former Macon County Sheriff Homer Holbrooks, to pin on his sheriff’s badge.

A resolution regarding official bonds examination for public officials was introduced/discussed, along with consideration of Budget Amendment 99, by Finance Director Lori Carpenter. First, the Finance Director bond was announced as $250,000 as was the Tax Collector bond. The Register of Deeds bond is $50,000, with the sheriff’s being $25,000. The board then approved all bonds as they currently stand. Amendment 99 is appropriation of funds for the Shop With a Cop initiative, to which the community donates money each year. If approved, a special check is then cut to the Sheriff’s Department and gift cards are then generated. The commissioners approved the amendment and also affirmed the 2023 meeting schedule to remain the second Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in the Macon County Courthouse Commission Boardroom.

Lastly, swearing in of sheriff’s deputy officers, detention officers, and administration staff took place with Judge Wijewickrama once again administering the oaths.  

“I work with you all on a daily basis and I’ve worked in this county 22 years as a judge,” he said. “We’re living in troubled times; to know that we have these men and women in here to preserve and protect and defend our constitution, and keep this county safe … I know the vast majority of the folks standing in here today, including the sheriff himself and former sheriff, Robbie Holland. It comforts me to know that we have folks like this putting their lives on the line every single day and night to keep us safe. I want to thank each and every one of you and I’m truly honored to be here to swear you in today.”

The next county commissioners meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2023, at 6 p.m. at the Macon County Courthouse.