Otis Ritter, a stalwart of the Moore County Republican Party, has been selected by the party's executive committee to serve out the unexpired term of Craig Kennedy on the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
The 73-year-old Ritter, who currently serves as Chairman of the County's Emergency Services Advisory Committee [ESAC], told The Times that he will be a staunch conservative on matters of taxes and spending, and that he plans to continue to work on public safety issues as Commissioner.
Kennedy resigned on April 25; his term would have expired in November of 2014. Under state law, a resigning Commissioner must be replaced by someone from the same district and party, and the law requires that the remaining Commissioners accept the person recommended by the executive committee of the appropriate political party in the county.
Moore County GOP Chairman John Rowerdink told The Times that the party's executive committee met on Tuesday, May 14 and voted unanimously to recommend Ritter for the post. Party officers had interviewed three other individuals who had expressed an interest in filling the seat, Rowerdink said, including GOP Men's Club President Lewis Gregory, Soil and Water Conservation Board Chairman Scott Sheffield, and former Robbins Mayor Theron Bell.
"I think he'll be an excellent Commissioner," Rowerdink said, noting that Ritter regularly attends Board of Commissioners meetings, and thus is well acquainted with the issues facing the County.
"All things being equal, we felt it was important to have someone from the northern part of the county," Rowedink added. "In the interest of geographic balance, we wanted to make sure those people were represented." Ritter lives outside Robbins, near North Moore High School.
Ritter, a native of Moore County, had a 27 year career with the carpet division of JP Stevens, moving from the plant floor into management. After retiring from the textile business, he served for ten years with the NC Office of Emergency Medical Services.
Ritter has been involved with emergency medical services his entire adult life, having served as a charter member of Robbins Rescue Unit 1, the County's first rescue squad. He has served as ESAC chairman for twenty years. He also worked as a substitute teacher at North Moore for six years.
"I am more comfortable up on my tractor or out in my garden than I am in front of the public," Ritter told The Times. "But I take it as a high compliment that the party has chosen me; and I hope I don't let them down or disappoint them."
Ritter has been involved in GOP politics since 1965 and was vice chair of the Moore County GOP in the 1980s, when the county switched from predominantly Democrat to predominantly Republican.
"I am going to be more conservative than a lot of people would like," Ritter told The Times. "I am scared to death of more taxes, because, in these economic times, that might be what pushes people over the edge."
Ritter said he looks forward to serving with the current members of the Board of Commissioners.
"I have a deep respect for all these guys on the Board," he told The Times. "And I have ultimate respect for our current Chairman. This guy is the sharpest guy with a pencil that I have ever seen."
"I expect to be a fish out of water at first, but I'll be swimming real soon," Ritter said.
"Otis is a very thoughtful, caring person who really analyzes before he speaks," Chairman Nick Picerno, who serves on the ESAC panel with Ritter, told The Times. "He won't vote on something before he really studies it and has a good grasp of it."
"I think he is very conservative by nature," Picerno added. " He will be a very good watchdog and fit in with our Board real well. We're glad to have him."
Because he will be appointed to fill out an unexpired term, Ritter will need to decide in less than a year whether to stand for re-election in 2014. Asked whether he expected to run, Ritter told The Times: "That will totally depend on how my health is." He noted that his health, and the health of his wife Elizabeth, are currently good.
"If it stays that way, I will file," he said.
Rowerdink will present the party's nomination of Ritter during the Tuesday, May 21 Board of Commissioners meeting.