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Former Chatham Coalition leader Jeff Starkweather opens a bottle of whine

By Jeffry Starkweather
Posted Saturday, June 29, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - I have been extremely fortunate to have served the people of this county for last seven and half years as a Board member of the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation. I am extremely proud of some of the things that I worked closely with others on the EDC and in local government to bring about including depoliticizing the selection of board members and strategic decision making, developing and implementing the county’s first strategic economic development plan that endures, at least on paper, designing an innovative industry incentive plan, undertaking a county branding process, promoting green building and technology, sustainable farming, energy conservation and arts as economic development drivers, developing a one-stop business review process and, most recently, leading a conceptual land use scenario process.

I want to thank EDC board chair Joe Glasson for his public support of my re-appointment. While Joe, a conservative Republican, and I, a progressive Democrat, have had our policy disagreements, I believe we have both always put the economic development interests of Chatham County first and did our best to listen to each other and work collaboratively to promote jobs and prosperity. Joe deserves most of the credit for this.

I also want to thank EDC President Diane Reid for her passionate dedication and her ability to work cooperatively with me and everyone else on the board.Unfortunately, there has been some backward movement on some of these accomplishments, particularly with a concerted effort by the majority of the Commissioners (Bock, Petty, and Stewart) to politicize the board’s selection process and decision making.

I understand that a county board majority has the legal right to overturn agreed-upon precedents and non-political principles in rejecting nominations of their fellow Democratic commissioners and the recommendations of an ideologically diverse and non-political EDC board selection panel (retiring EDC board members Edward Kelly of Pittsboro and Bill Miholen of Siler City and CCCC President Bud Merchant). But this appears to me to be a slap in the face of the voters of Chatham County.

This is the third time (previously Dr. George Lucier for the Environmental Review Board and Allison Weakley for the planning board) this Republican board majority has rejected the board nominations of fellow Democratic Commissioners Sally Kost and Mike Cross. They took these unprecedented undemocratic actions despite the fact that Kost and Cross in November overwhelmingly defeated their Republican opponents, who ran on supporting the policies of the current Republican majority.

I have heard it said repeatedly that open-minded and confident elected officials welcome dissent and disagreement because it helps them make more informed and strategic decisions. Bock, Petty, and Steward have rejected their own campaign pledge to seek ideological diversity on county boards and have gone back to the tried and true strategy of failed leaders – listen only to those who agree with you.

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Former Chatham Coalition leader Jeff Starkweather opens a bottle of whine
Former Chatham Coalition leader Jeff Starkweather.