The Wilkes County commissioners unanimously approved an appointment to the Wilkes Community College Board of Trustees despite dissent voiced during a discussion before the vote.
Evan Q. Handy of Wilkesboro will replace Gerald Lankford of North Wilkesboro, whose current term on the board ended June 30. Lankford was on the WCC board for 16 years and also served as a Wilkes County commissioner and Wilkes school board member.
Commissioner Keith Elmore said he received applications from two people interested in being on the WCC board and asked Chairman Eddie Settle if he wanted the commissioners to choose between the two. He was referencing Handy and Shelmer D. Blackburn Jr. of Purlear.
Settle answered, “I’ll be honest with you, the consensus of the board has been for Mr. Evan Handy.”
Elmore responded, “If that’s the consensus, I believe it was reached two years ago, if I’m not mistaken. I guess my concern or grievance is that I felt like I was asked to go out and recruit a candidate. I would not have done that if I had known two years ago that this decision was made.”
Elmore represents the commissioners as one of the 15 voting members of the WCC board. The commissioners appoint three other members of the college board. All 15 serve four-year terms.
Elmore said a very qualified person was brought to his attention, referring to Blackburn. “I’m very disappointed. I hope everyone had the opportunity to speak with him (Blackburn) and interview him. I wish y’all would have told me two years ago” that the choice had been made.
Elmore never identified Blackburn by name in the meeting, but said he serves on the Wake Forest University Board of Trustees, is a very accomplished business man and is highly qualified. Blackburn’s term on the Wake Forest board ends in 2020.
“This is just very concerning. I think we’re missing an opportunity, but I’ll go with the board.”
Elmore added, “I guess the thing that concerns me is that we’re selecting a trustee for the college. He has an impact on 3,000 kids and their education. It’s a very important appointment.”
Settle said that when commissioners interview people for appointed positions, there is always a possibility they will or won’t be chosen.
He added, “Anyone can say someone ‘is not the right guy’ when an appointment is made by the governor or anyone. Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Handy are both qualified, as Mr. Lankford was for many years.”
Commissioner David Gambill agreed with Settle and said it was nice to have two candidates to choose from.
Settle agreed and said since he has been a commissioner, “it’s been cut and dried before we get in. There have never been interviews or anything. I think too many go back on the boards and then go back and back and back. A little change is good.”
Gambill made the motion to appoint Evan Handy to the WCC Board of Trustees. Commissioner Brian Minton seconded the motion.
According to Handy’s application for the appointment, he is a financial planner with Edward Jones in North Wilkesboro.
Handy’s application said he received an associate degree from WCC in 2013, a bachelor of art’s degree from North Carolina State University in 2014 and is enrolled in the Certified Financial Planner certification program at Wake Forest.
Handy is president of the Wilkes County Hall of Fame and is a member of the Wilkes County Community Foundation, North Wilkesboro Rotary Club and North Wilkesboro Masonic Lodge.
According to his application for the appointment, Blackburn founded United Therapeutics Corp., a biotechnology company. His current occupation is beef cattle rancher.
Blackburn’s application said he received a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Wake Forest and had studies in public health at Johns Hopkins University, both in 1986.
Blackburn is founding chairman of the Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Day Center in North Wilkesboro, is on the board of directors of the Wilkes Rescue Squad and N.C. Cattlemen’s Association and has served on other boards.