by David Anderson
A large crowd of family and Eastern North Carolina supporters gathered in front of the Lenoir County Courthouse Thursday for the swearing in of N.C. House Rep. Karen D. Kozel, R-Lenoir.
Kozel, a resident of Lenoir County, will fill the seat of former Republican Rep. Stephen LaRoque until the end of the term in January. She will represent areas of Kinston, Lenoir County, Greene County, Wayne County and Craven County.
“As God is my guide, I will serve the people of Eastern North Carolina with wisdom and grace,” Kozel said before she was sworn in by Rusty Duke, senior resident Superior Court judge for Pitt County.
Duke led Kozel in the oath of office as she placed her hand on a Bible held by her 9-year-old daughter Leah.
The freshman representative swore to “support the Constitution of the United States; that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the State of North Carolina, and to the constitutional powers and authorities which are or may be established for the government thereof.”
She was selected by the members of the executive committees of the Republican parties of Lenoir, Greene and Wayne counties on Aug. 21 to succeed LaRoque, who resigned in July after being federally indicted.
Jason McKnight, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church of Kinston, led the audience in prayer. He cited a passage from 1 Timothy 2:1-2, in which prayers are made “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
“We ask that she would represent well both your thoughts (Lord), and these people in this district,” McKnight prayed.
Kozel is the board chair for Eastern North Carolina Home Schoolers and is the director and co-founder of the Eastern N.C. Tea Party. She is a mother of 13 children and is married to Dr. William L. Kozel of Kinston.
The Eastern N.C. Tea Party hosted an event following the swearing-in ceremony at the Queen Street Deli.
N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, who has been a family friend of the Kozels since the mid 1980s, was the keynote speaker and discussed constitutional principles.
“We’re just very proud of her and what she does,” Newby said of Karen Kozel.
Before the event started, Newby told The Free Press he teaches constitutional law at Campbell University, and plans to return to Kinston on Sept. 17 to speak to local school groups about the U.S. and state constitutions.
He plans to speak about the “miracle of our American experience, and how we are so fortunate to have the rights and freedoms we have.”
Sept. 17 is the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.
David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or David.Anderson@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.