Wake Democrats pick Tara Waters to fill commissioner seat

Wake County School Board member Tara Waters speaks during the Wake County School Board Safety and Security meeting in Cary, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

Wake County School Board member Tara Waters speaks during the Wake County School Board Safety and Security meeting in Cary, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

Wake County Democrats tapped the school board’s vice chair to fill a vacant seat on the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Tara Waters is the nominee-elect to fill the District 5 seat on the board following the death of longtime commissioner James West. Waters, 45, was appointed to the Wake County Board of Education in 2022 and then was elected to the position later that year. She’s the program manager for the city of Raleigh’s Volunteer Raleigh. She was elected the school board’s vice chair this week.

The Wake County Board of Commissioners, consisting of all Democrats, will likely vote in January on whether to accept the nomination.

“It has been the honor of my lifetime to be a member of the Wake Board of Education, particularly as a product of Wake County Public School System,” Waters said in an interview Wednesday evening. “And this will be another opportunity to serve and have influence and impact on the way that our students are served, as well as many other members of our community.”

West died Nov. 18. West, 79, had been on the board of commissioners since 2010, first as an appointed member, then an elected one. He had one year remaining in his term.

West was a registered Democrat. State law requires the Wake County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee to make a nomination to fill his seat. Five candidates expressed interest in the position including Waters, Knightdale Mayor Jessica Day, DaQuanta Copeland, Tammy Martin and Frank White Sr.

Waters knew West through her time on the school board. In her last interaction with him, she said he provided her a Bible verse meant to encourage and inspire.

“I wish I had known him much better than I did but it was certainly evident how much he loved the community,” she said. “And to be able to follow his model for service is something that is really a gift and I hope to really do something that brings hope and healing as we know that there will never be another Commissioner West.”

Kevyn Creech, Wake County Democratic Party chair, said all five candidates were “very qualified, strong candidates.”

“Any one of them would do a fine job serving the constituents of District 5, as well as the rest of Wake County,’ Creech said. “We are confident that Tara Waters will be exemplary in the role.”

The District 5 seat is one of three seats open on the Wake County Board of Commissioners in 2024, and filing is underway now. Waters intends to file for the seat.

Wake County Commissioners Shinica Thomas and Susan Evans, who represent the other two open seats, have both filed for re-election.

The school board will appoint a replacement to finish Waters’ term, which ends in 2024.

This story was originally published December 6, 2023, 7:30 PM.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting.

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