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An open letter to our commissioners - old and new

By Gary Simpson
Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - We, your constituents, turned out in full force Monday night to witness your first performance together on the public stage, and to let you know what's on our minds and hearts. We learned a fair amount about each of you individually, and how you will function as players on the same team. You, as well, learned a good deal about us from those few who spoke to you during the public input session.

For any who were concerned that only those fans who voted for the five of you would show up, such folly can be laid to rest. You learned right from the get-go that there is no lack of sour grapes out there on the vine. You were scolded for accepting a pay hike while Wal-Mart workers (for example) languish. That was followed by what sounded like a verbal declaration of war by the lead singer for a new "Conservative Voice." At least you have been given fair warning up front that your every move is under the microscope, and that you have a mountain to climb if you are to provide healing for the anger and hurt that is palpable in the court house, on the street and through the ether. May you have strong and compassionate hearts for the trek.

Gentlemen, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to turn the sour grapes of wrath into a full bodied Merlot that will make the vintners at Horizon Cellars green with envy. We know that good wine will take some time to age. But for a starter, it was enough to witness both friend and foe gathering in communion around the common bowl at the reception, to partake of the punch with you and their neighbors, rather than throw it.

You were reminded by those who've lived in these parts forever, and by those who've more recently learned what there is to love about Chatham, that you are to shed yourselves of any political stripes you may hold and any special allegiances you may have made, and to let your love for the county's best interests surpass any special or personal interests you may harbor. We'll give you two to four years to convince us of the purity of your motives, give us good jobs that don't harm the environment, make our farms flourish, build a strong infrastructure, provide stellar school facilities and cause the four corners of the county to unite in the annual Chatham Love Fest. Do that, and then we'll talk again about that pay raise.

Pittsboro's Mayor thought y'all looked good sitting together behind the board table, and looked forward to seeing more of you around town working in partnership with municipalities on a regular basis to plan together for the greater good of all. The more time you spend out of your chairs and out and about in the towns and countryside of Chatham, the better you will look to all who make the time and effort to get to know you for real. In this regard, taking the BOC show on the road and forming citizen advisory groups throughout the county as you hope to do looks like a win-win situation for all.

You were quick to show us that there are no carbon copies on this board. That old familiar 3 vs. 2 vote appeared pronto during selection of board chair and vice chair. No cloning has taken place among you, but a little clowning was welcomed as humor will go a long way to provide some needed comic relief in the midst of the serious dramas that are sure to play out over the months to come. Remaining "agreeably disagreeable" while demonstrating civility and high regard for one another will earn you positive reviews from the critics who watch you perform under the public spotlight month after month.

As you learn how to work and play together, there are many of your fellow Chathamites who will place great value on your willingness and ability to allow and enable us to work and play along with you. Your encouragement for us to partake in open and responsive government can and will provide you with talented and resourceful allies to help you tackle the steamroller that stands before you on your quest to serve the best interests of the whole county.

Best regards from a grateful neighbor.

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An open letter to our commissioners - old and new
Chatham county commission candidates pose before the primary elections.
photo by Gene Galin