Orange County commissioners fill vacant seat with Democratic Party pick, advocate

The Board of Commissioners accepted an Orange County Democratic Party recommendation Tuesday night, filling a vacant seat on the board with a party leader and social justice advocate.

Phyllis Portie-Ascott, the current first vice chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, will replace former Commissioner Renee Price, who left the board in December after winning the state House District 50 election.

Portie-Ascott will be one of two board members that represent District 2, which covers the northern and western portions of Orange County. She will serve out the remainder of Price’s term, which ends in 2024.

The Hillsborough resident has been a real estate investor since 1997 and started her own company, PPA Properties, in 2009.

She was chosen from a field of four candidates that included Horace Johnson Jr., Brenda Stephens and Natalie Ziemba. A fifth applicant, Gail Corrado, dropped out of the running before Tuesday’s vote.

The local Democratic Party Executive Committee reviewed the applications before recommending on Jan. 30 that the commissioners appoint Portie-Ascott to the board.

In addition to a bachelor’s degree in social work and two master’s degrees in divinity and in public administration, Portie-Ascott has served in several leadership roles, including as former secretary of the Triangle Area Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers; former president of Northern Orange Black Voters Alliance; former secretary of the Northern Orange NAACP, and former Connections Chair of the Psi Gamma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

The commissioners had the option of choosing their own nominee. State law requires Price’s replacement to be a member of the same political party and live in the same district as Price. She’s the second Orange County commissioner to be replaced in two years, and the second since 1981 to be replaced before their term ended.

Commissioner Mark Dorosin, a civil rights attorney, resigned in 2021 when he moved to Florida for a new job. The board chose Commissioner Anna Richards to fill his seat. She was elected to a full term in November.