For 17 days Howard Penny waited for the chance to be sworn-in to replace the embattled David Lewis as the state’s District 53 representative.
The wait officially ended Thursday around 10:45 a.m. when Penny was sworn-in by House Speaker Tim Moore in Raleigh. It was a moment he won’t soon forget.
Penny’s appointment was delayed on the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper, who finally approved his assignment seven days after the Harnett County GOP Executive Committee nominated Penny.
All Penny could do in the meantime was sit in on sessions and wait to be made official. His oath of office ceremony was set for Thursday.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a period of time,” Penny said as he prepared to make the hour-long drive to the state capital. “The time has come to transition to something I’ve been looking forward to doing. This is something I’ve been privileged to do and I look forward to it.”
Penny said even though he’s just been sworn-in, the significance of the moment hasn’t been lost on him.
“The reality of it has, even though I couldn’t take the oath of office until today, being as I got to sit in the House while it was in session and observing, has allowed me to have a little bit better grasp of what goes on,” Penny said. “Of course, I’ll have a better grasp when I go into the committees I’m assigned to work on.”
Penny is no longer the chairman of the Harnett County Board of Commissioners. His term ended when he finished taking the oath of office for the District 53 seat.
A person cannot hold two political offices at the same time under state statute. But even if he could, duties at the state and local levels would compete for his attention and time.
“I’ve realized over the last few weeks, that I can’t serve the people of Harnett County properly [doing both],” he said. “And even though we’re out of session, my phone has been ringing with things I have to do as a part of the General Assembly. The time has come to make the transition.”
Penny, who has been involved in agriculture and small business for most of his adult life, has been named to the House Agriculture, Finance, Judiciary and State and Local Government committees.
“I think all of them are things I’ve had experience in, except for the Judiciary, and I’ll find out what that is all about,” he said. “That’s the part I’m looking forward [to] serving on among other than the Agriculture committee. … Believe it or not agriculture is still the number one industry in Harnett County like it is in most rural counties in North Carolina. I spent 50 years working in agriculture so I’m looking forward to that.”
Penny explained the similarities of the various committees to board of commissioner work sessions, of which he’s very familiar.
“The committees you serve on, they do a lot of the work,” Penny said. “When the legislation goes to the House floor, it’s already been debated behind the scenes between the two sides. It works on a small scale a lot like work sessions.”
The House is not scheduled for another regular session until January, after the General Election where Penny will face off against challengers Sally Benson (Democrat) and Zach Berly (Libertarian) for the District 53 seat.
“I’m just excited about it and I’m looking forward to it,” Penny said. “And I’m excited and looking forward to serving my fellow man in Harnett County.”
-Dunn Daily Record