CHAPEL HILL — Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier announced this week she intends to seek a vacant N.C. House District 50 seat.
Pelissier said now’s the time to step up or give up.
“In the past year, we have seen incredibly divisive legislation from the GOP, which puts at risk the future of our citizens and their prospects for a decent and well-deserved quality of life,” Pelissier said.
If appointed to the office, she plans to focus on providing all students with a quality education; encouraging entrepreneurship, business and jobs; promoting transparency and fairness in government; and collaboration with towns and counties “to address their unique needs.”
“As a county commissioner who has lived in both the urban and rural areas, I know the interests and needs of this district. With my experience, passion, commitment and courage, I offer to step up and servewith integrityin the General Assembly for all North Carolina. I will work to build a sustainable economy and community for the future of all residents in District 50,” she said.
She joins a growing slate of District 50 candidates: Chapel Hill Town Council member Laurin Easthom, businessman Tommy McNeill, lawyer Drew Nelson and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools administrator Graig Meyer.
District 50 covers parts of Orange and Durham counties.
First-term Rep. Valerie Foushee has resigned her District 50 seat in preparation for a move to the N.C. Senate, where she was appointed to finish former Sen. Ellie Kinnard’s term in District 23. Kinnaird resigned her seat in August to protest Republican legislative policies and to dedicate her time to getting voters prepared for the state’s restrictive new voter ID law.
Foushee’s move will become official when she takes the oath of office, said Matt Hughes, Orange County’s Democratic Party chairman.
A four-member N.C. Democratic Party House Executive Committee will appoint one candidate later this year to complete Foushee’s term. Both the House and Senate terms expire in December 2014.
Pelissier, 62, has more than 25 years of hands-on experience in criminal justice and mental health and has served on numerous boards and commissions, including as chairwoman of the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club, the Orange Water and Sewer Authority board, the Partnership to End Homelessness and the Orange County Board of Commissioners. She also has served on university, regional and state committees.
She was born in Senegal, Africa, to French parents and spent her early years in New Jersey, moving to Damascus, Syria, as a teen when her father worked for the United Nations. She has been a resident of Orange County for 37 years.
Pelissier has a doctorate in sociology and specialized for much of her career in the evaluation of community and prison mental health programs. She worked for 20 years as a former chief of research at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner and is also the former director of research and evaluation for the Durham County Community Mental Health Center. In 2012, she won the Public-Private Partnership Award from Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.
She lives in Orange County with her husband Vann Bennett, a biochemistry professor at Duke University. They have two children and three grandchildren.