Also to come out of the convention, Teressa Beavers, who also stepped down from the party’s vice chair position to become a member-at-large, has formed an exploratory committee to consider a second run at Rockingham City Council later this year. She narrowly missed out in the non-partisan election two years ago.
It was highlighted by an address by county Republican and School Board Member Tom McInnis, who shared the concept of “sacred honor,” as defined by the founding fathers of the United States, for a measuring stick for candidates in upcoming elections. He also called attention to a move in the General Assembly to reshape the county’s judicial district, cautioning attendees of the implications such a move could have.
Outgoing Party Chair Lee Butler opened the convention with the theme of, “The Changing of the Guard,” as he and three other long-time executive committee members chose not to seek reelection to their offices. They were Vice Chair Beavers, Secretary Jody Honeycutt and Treasurer Keith McLester.
“We never sat down and had a conversation where we said, ‘Okay, this is what we’re going to do,’” Butler recalled during his closing remarks. “We just wanted to learn about the process, so we could become a part of it, and give a face and a voice to the party in the community … In the end, we did create the goal we were after, and that is a positive image for the Republican Party in Richmond County. Little-by-little, the numbers are beginning to change.”
During her address, Beavers said it has been six years since she first took office within the county GOP, when there were no party members who held elected office in the county. Today, there are four.
“We’ve come a long way,” she said to the audience. “I think we’ve done good jobs, and we’ve fielded good candidates. They haven’t always won. There are winners, but you’re a winner if you make an impact and it takes time to make change - true change - happen.”
Beavers said she is considering a second run at a non-partisan seat on the Rockingham City Council. She campaigned two years ago for a seat on the board, promising to work for a recycling program in the city and pointing out that, as a female, she would provide diversity to the board.
Municipal elections are held later this year.
During his remarks, McInnis said the approximately 50 in attendance was more than had been seen at many Republican meetings in the county through the years.
First, he explained the school district’s response to state budgeting issues, and assured party members leadership in the General Assembly has expressed support for public schools. He then called attention to a rumored move of Stanly County to join Union County in its judicial district, leaving Richmond and Anson in this district, saying it could cost the county judge and district attorney staff.
“Now, this in itself is no problem, as I see it, but we’ve got to have sufficient personnel in those offices, in order for justice to be served in the cases that move through them,” McInnis said.
Finally, he shared a test to apply to candidates in upcoming elections.
“Honor, integrity, character - these are things that are in short supply in some places in this world,” McInnis said. “Whoever you vote for, make sure it’s someone who is there to serve the public, not themselves.”
County Commissioner Ben Moss, Rockingham City Councilman Travis Billingsley and 2012 Lt. Gov. candidate Dan Forest also spoke at the convention.
Candidates for open positions on the party’s executive committee were passed without dissent, including Incoming Chairman Josh Austin, Vice Chairman Rev. Tim Watkins, Secretary Hilda Spivey and Treasurer Dan Moody. Six members-at-large were also elected.
In his acceptance speech, Austin stressed the importance of party unity.
“I am your chairman,” he said. “Whether we get along or not, or have in the past, I am your chairman and I’m here for you … I’m not going to promise something is going to happen overnight, but I can promise that I will give my all - blood, sweat and tears.”
He then immediately addressed the party’s obvious issue - expanding its rolls.
“You all have friends and family members who feel the same way you do, but they’re not here tonight,” Austin said. “That’s a problem. They need to be here.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.