Moffitt appointed to Ward 3 council seat
City Council members on Monday picked former Durham Planning Commission Chairman Don Moffitt to serve out the remainder of Mike Woodard’s term in the Ward 3 seat.
The decision in practical terms came on a 3-2 vote, in the absence of ailing Ward 2 Councilman Howard Clement.
Members Eugene Brown, Diane Catotti and Steve Schewel supported Moffitt.
Mayor Bill Bell and Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden backed former city and county employee Anita Daniels.
The five who participated in the decision quickly took a second vote to make the appointment unanimous. City Clerk Ann Gray then swore in Moffitt, who will serve until December.
Moffitt’s supporters said his experience on key issues stood out.
As a council, “we work together really well and I think we agree on about 95 percent of the issues before us,” Catotti said. “But where we have disagreements, they tend to be around land use and business development. We should be filling the position with the person who has the most experience in that area.”
Bell didn’t explain his vote, but Cole-McFadden said she preferred Daniels because of the would-be appointee’s gender.
“I’m saying this because on a national level, we have seen the rise of women in the [U.S.] Senate and other prominent positions,” Cole-McFadden said. “When we look at the makeup of the City Council, we have the opportunity to appoint someone on a short-term basis for consider the population of women and how many live here.”
Moffitt said he was “honored and humbled” by the selection and would “work hard to represent all the people of Durham in every decision.”
Woodard, who had held the Ward 3 seat since December of 2005, stepped down at the end of last year to take a state Senate seat. Bell swore him in to his new office Monday evening.
He had a word of advice for the new councilman. “Remember, it’s not what the city needs, it’s what the citizens need,” Woodard said. “Always vote with that in mind.”
The council had until early March to fill the Ward 3 vacancy, but wound up filling it at the earliest opportunity. The decision meant Moffitt was in place for the council’s first business meeting of 2013.
Also in the running were applicants Edward Kwon and Jason Melehani. Schewel, Cole-McFadden and Catotti also said the council had a strong field to choose from.
In picking Moffitt, the council opted to replace Woodard with one of the senator’s political allies. The two are active in the People’s Alliance, one of Durham’s big-three political groups.
The alliance endorsed Moffitt’s bid for the appointment. The other big-three groups, the Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, endorsed Daniels.
Of the three, the People’s Alliance has more of its base in the western Durham precincts that make up Ward 3. The Friends’ power base is in northern Durham and the Durham Committee’s is in east Durham and the Fayetteville Street corridor.
Moffitt and Daniels had both run unsuccessfully for County Commissioners, finishing eighth in the Democratic Party primaries of 2008 and 2012, respectively.
All three council ward seats are up for election this year. Moffitt has said he’ll run this fall for a full term.
He likely will face opposition from Downtown Durham Inc. President Bill Kalkhof, who’s retiring from his present job on April 30 and has made no secret of his political aspirations. Kalkhof was in the audience for Monday’s council appointment meeting.