Home Local News Richmond County Commissioners sworn in; Webb to step down as attorney

Richmond County Commissioners sworn in; Webb to step down as attorney

Jason Gainey takes the oath of office for county commissioner, administered by Superior Court Judge Dawn Layton, joined by Pastor Steve Gilmer, left, and Deputy Marcus Norris. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Two new commissioners and two returning took their respective oaths of office Monday afternoon prior to the December meeting of Richmond County’s governing board.

Jason Gainey, former manager of the county airport and current president of Sandhills Best Care, was the first to be administered the oath by Superior Court Judge Dawn Layton.

Gainey was joined by Pastor Steve Gilmer, who offered a prayer afterward; and Deputy Marcus Norris, who held the Bible of his late father the Rev. Marshall Norris, Gainey’s former pastor of more than 20 years.

Gainey received the second-highest percentage of the vote (14.9%) in the Nov. 8 election.

The other newcomer, Robin Roberts, was joined by her family. Her mother Tina Aaron held the Bible while husband Dean, and children Rusty and Raven looked on.

Roberts, who received 14.4% of the vote, is manager of Hudson Brothers Deli, and president of both the VFW Post 4203 Auxiliary and Rockingham Downtown Corporation.

From left: Rusty Roberts, Dean Roberts, Robin Roberts, Raven Roberts, Tina Aaron, Judge Dawn Layton.

Commissioners Dr. Rick Watkins and Vice Chairman Justin Dawkins were also sworn in: Watkins joined by wife Cindy; and Dawkins joined by wife Katie and children Allison and Ryan.

Watkins, who switched to the Republican Party prior to filing for the election, received 15.73% of the vote — the highest percentage of the eight candidates. Dawkins garnered 14.64%.

From left: Rick Watkins, Cindy Watkins, Dawn Layton.

With the election of those four, the Board of Commissioners is composed of all Republicans for the first time in recent memory.

Commissioners Jeff Smart, Toni Maples and Andy Grooms were elected in 2020 and Dawkins was appointed that year to fill the remaining term of Ben Moss, who was elected to the N.C. House of Representatives. Moss had been the first Republican to serve on the board in a century.

At each December meeting, the board votes on its leadership.

Three commissioners were nominated for chairman: Smart, who was the sitting chairman, nominated by Dawkins; Maples, nominated by Grooms; and Watkins, nominated by Gainey.

Despite being nominated herself, Maples threw her support behind Smart, who was reelected 3-2-2.

Gainey also nominated Watkins, who has the longest tenure on the board as the only one to serve a full term, for vice chairman. Smart nominated Dawkins and Grooms nominated himself.

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The vote fell along the same lines as the previous: Dawkins, Smart and Maples for Dawkins; Grooms and Roberts for Grooms; and Watkins and Gainey for Watkins.

From left: Katie Dawkins, Justin Dawkins, Allison Dawkins, Ryan Dawkins, Dawn Layton.

Prior to the business of the meeting, county attorney Bill Webb announced that he plans to step down.

Webb took over after law partner Stephan Futrell was appointed as a superior court judge in 2018.

“I have enjoyed being appointed by this board to serve as county attorney … it’s a real honor and it’s been a real pleasure,” Webb said.

However, Webb explained that his personal circumstances have changed, having to take over “a large business interest” in Charleston, South Carolina, in addition to running his family’s quail hunting lodge.

Webb added that “the easiest thing to pare off of my plate is the governmental unit of my practice.”

“I’m 70 years old and it’s a new board, and I’m thinking that it’s a good time (for) you guys to have your choice of the county attorney that you would like going forward,” Webb said, adding that he had several recommendations on what they should look for.

Webb has practiced law for 42 years and has also served as counsel for Ellerbe and Hamlet.

Smart said when he learned of Webb’s intent, he asked the attorney to “hang on with us for a little while and give us chance to go forward and have some discussions on a different attorney.”

Richmond County Board of Commissioners, from left: Andy Grooms, Jason Gainey, Toni Maples, Jeff Smart, Robin Roberts, Justin Dawkins, Dr. Rick Watkins.

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.