Gov. Roy Cooper has appointed Jessica Holmes, former chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, as interim North Carolina State Auditor. Holmes will serve the remainder of outgoing State Auditor Beth Wood’s term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2024.
Wood announced earlier this month that she would be resigning on Dec. 15.
“North Carolina is fortunate to have a dedicated, enthusiastic public servant in Jessica Holmes willing to take on the important role of State Auditor, and I am confident that she will lead the department with determination and hard work,” Cooper, a Democrat, said in a press release. “Her effective service as chair of the Wake County Commissioners has shown her that every dollar counts when it comes to serving the public in education, public safety, health care, and all the other areas that support our state’s people.”
Holmes, a Pender County native, is an attorney who currently works as Deputy Industrial Commissioner. She previously was elected to two terms as a Wake County Commissioner and twice elected as commission chair. She was also the 2020 Democratic nominee for Commissioner of Labor.
“I will bring my legal expertise to the office by asking tough questions and ensuring agencies are spending state money legally, effectively, and efficiently,” said Holmes. “I look forward to taking on this important role for the coming year. I will be filing for election to this seat next week.”
Cooper also thanked Wood for her years of service to the state and to its people.
Wood announced her resignation on Nov. 9. The announcement came after a Wake County grand jury indicted her on Nov. 7 for allegedly using a state vehicle for private purposes. The previous week, she announced that she would not seek re-election in 2024 but would serve the remainder of her term.
The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) conducted an eight-month investigation into Wood’s use of state-owned vehicles before and after the Dec. 8 accident when she hit a parked car owned by Chris Valverde of Pinehurst, near the intersection of Salisbury and Hargett Streets in downtown Raleigh.
SBI found that Wood allegedly traveled back and forth to regularly scheduled hair and dental appointments out of town and to shopping centers and spa locations where “she was not engaged in business in her official capacity” between January 2021 and December 2022.
Wood faces a Class 2 misdemeanor charge of the private use of a publicly owned vehicle.
A court date is scheduled for Dec. 4.
Wood, a Democrat who has been known as the state’s “watchdog” for her department’s audits of financial misconduct, had the spotlight thrown on her for the December 2022 incident.
She faced much controversy after she left the scene of the accident and was charged on Dec. 12 with a misdemeanor for hit-and-run, leaving the scene, property damage, and an infraction for unsafe movement.
Wood was at a Christmas party that night. Video obtained by WRAL shows Wood being led into the law office of Rufus Edmisten, a former N.C. secretary of state and Watergate lawyer, while her car remains in the intersection on top of Valverde’s car.
Former state senator Jeff Tarte, Cornelius, Mecklenburg County, announced Wednesday that he is running for the 2024 Republican nomination for state auditor.
In addition to Tarte, a slate of Republican candidates have announced their intention to run for the auditor’s office, including former UNC Board Chair David Boliek; CPA Jack Clark; businessman Charles Dingee; A.J. Daoud; former Greensboro city council member Jim Kee, and Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch.
If Holmes decides to run for the office, she will have some competition.
Former assistant state auditor Luis Toledo is the lone candidate running for the Democrat nomination.
He ran against Wood in the 2020 Democratic primary for state auditor and lost. He also lost to former state Senator Wiley Nickel in the 2018 Democratic primary for state senate.