LUMBERTON — With Burnis Wilkins planning to abandon his Precinct 3 seat on the Lumberton City Council to become sheriff in December, city officials say there will most likely be an election in November to find his replacement.
According to City Attorney Holt Moore, North Carolina law typically allows for a municipal board to appoint a replacement and then hold an election at the same time the next regular municipal elections are held, which would be in 2019. Under that scenario, the city would appoint Wilkins’ replacement and that person would serve until 2019, and the winner of the election would then finish the two years remaining on Wilkins’ term, which would end in 2021.
But in 1983, the city of Lumberton got legislation through the General Assembly allowing it to use a different procedure for replacing a member of the City Council. Moore said the legislation allows for the election to be held during the next county, state, federal or General Election, which in this instance would be Nov. 6. The winner of the election would then serve until 2021.
According to that legislation, the filing period would be no earlier than noon on the 10th Friday preceding the election, and no later than noon on the seventh Friday preceding the election. That would mean the filing period would be between Aug. 31 and Sept. 21.
Wilkins, who is 57, was first elected to council in 2013 and won re-election in 2017. He told The Robesonian he has not decided when he will step down. The replacement process begins when he notifies the city, and Wilkins hinted that could happen in August to ensure the election can be held in November. He said he doesn’t want his precinct to go without representation for an extended period of time.
The career law enforcement officer won a five-person Democratic primary for sheriff on May 8, defeating runner-up Ronnie Patterson, the Red Springs police chief, by getting 42 percent of the vote. Randy Graham, James Jones and George Kenworthy rounded out the field.
There was no Republican candidate, giving Wilkins as pass in November. He is scheduled to be sworn in on Dec. 3, replacing Kenneth Sealey, who has been sheriff since 2005.