Published: Aug 07, 2012 02:48 PM
Modified: Aug 07, 2012 02:50 PM
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The town has its next public official: Ed Yerha won appointment to the Cary Town Council by a split 4-2 vote on Tuesday.
Yerha, a 63-year-old tax analyst for computer company Lenovo, is a former planning and zoning board member and a 17-year resident of Cary.
The decision came 31 days and 59 applicants after former councilwoman Julie Robison resigned mid-term to move for her husband’s new job. Yerha could officially join the council within weeks.
The councilman-to-be said he hadn’t expected the appointment. He ran unsuccessfully for a council seat in 2005.
Now “I’m going to try to learn everything that I have to learn,” he said. “I have a lot of experience with the town, but this is still a new endeavor – I’m a rookie.”
Yerha, a graduate of New York University, has worked on eight town boards and committees, including service from 2000 to 2004 as the chair of the planning and zoning board. In his application, he wrote that Cary must protect the environment, the public and its historic structures as it grows.
“In his interview he was clearly head and shoulders above the rest with his knowledge and understanding of what we do on council,” Mayor Harold Weinbrecht wrote in an email. “I think he will quickly show why this council selected him.”
The council made its appointment in a fraction of the time it took to appoint Erv Portman in 2007, when a partisan logjam froze the process for seven months. This year, the nonpartisan council was again split evenly between the political parties, but Republican Jack Smith joined the board’s Democrats to nominate Yerha, who is registered as “unaffiliated.”
Tuesday’s quick resolution drew complaint from the two dissenters, Republicans Jennifer Robinson and Don Frantz. Frantz said voters could be wary of Yerha’s previous political involvement and financial contributions to candidates, including Frantz himself.
“I think (Yerha) is a good man,” Frantz said during a council work session, but “I really worry about the public perception and cronyism.”
A limited Cary News review of records shows Yerha has made a few campaign contributions in the last five years, though not in extraordinary amounts. He contributed $500 to Frantz’s campaign in 2007, $500 to Mayor Harold Weinbrecht’s 2011 campaign and $500 to Councilwoman Lori Bush’s 2007 campaign.
Councilwoman Gale Adcock, who initated the vote to select Yerha, said the choice was not partisan, and added that it wasn’t deterimental for the new council member to have had a past role in town politics.
“You can’t expect people to be really involved in the process and not somehow get involved or give money,” Adcock said.
Weinbrecht characterized Frantz’s “cronyism” comment as “sad and unfortunate.”
Robinson, who opposed Yerha’s appointment, said she had hoped for a unanimous decision, and she pointed to Julia Rudy as her preference. Earlier in the process, five of the six council members had expressed support for Rudy, who also is registered as an unafilliated voter. “She may not have been your first choice, but you looked at her, you interviewed her, and you said this is a strong candidate,” Robinson argued.
In response, Adcock noted that while Rudy enjoyed broader council support, the four-member majority more strongly supported Yerha. The new appointee’s supporters said it was his long tenure in Cary and his experience with Cary government that won the day.
In interviews, Yerha gave “consistent, relevant, meaningful answers,” Smith said. “There are people that view every decision as political. We try to take out that factor.”