It is often difficult to determine the level of support by county residents for their political leadership.
Attendance at the monthly county commission meetings is not always the best barometer. The meetings tend to be sparsely attended and letters sent to local newspapers, the Post included, are few and far between. Usually, those letters arrive at our office when there is an issue that directly affects that person or group.
As we all know, people talk a lot about how things should be different or changed, but those words are not always followed by action.
The reluctance to act is understandable. It is a basic human emotion; most folks care a great deal about how their family, friends or neighbors might see them for speaking out, worried they might offend others, or worse, create an enemy. However, some folks heartily embrace being defined as one way or another politically and throw caution into the wind when speaking their mind. All too often, those words are not supported by deeds.
Because of this, for most people, the only avenue to voice their approval or otherwise about the county’s leadership is through the ballot box.
But there is one other way to speak out – running for elected office.
If the number of those filing for the three open seats on the County Commission were the only determining factor how effective the residents of Ashe County believe the current administration is meeting its challenges, there might be a large well of untapped anger bubbling beneath the surface of our electorate.
And what is that number of folks filing for the three open seats on the board? Twelve. There are 12 men and women running for the three open seats on the Ashe County Board of Commissioners. There is also at least one person who is attempting to be included on November’s General Election ballot running as an Independent. That person is currently trying to secure enough signatures on a petition to qualify as a candidate.
It takes a large measure of courage and commitment to act, putting oneself “out there” to run for political office. It also takes money.
After the primary election on May 6, those 12 will be whittled down to six; three representing each political party.
In the days running up to May 6, those vying for those six slots face a difficult challenge.
Their most important being; how they want potential voters to define them?
The current county administration, in some respects, has made that easier for the challengers.
There has been the forced resignations of two county managers in two years; the change in the county’s ambulance service provider and the questionable negotiations prior to awarding the new contract; and the ongoing construction issues at the county’s airport, just to name a few.
For the challengers, these issues are low-hanging fruit…easy to agree, or disagree, with.
However, there are at least two major issues the county will be forced to address in the coming months, economic development and local schools funding. Those issues will need the full attention of the commissioners.
No one disputes economic development has been placed on the backburner of county priorities since the forced resignation of Dr. Pat Mitchell, who served in the dual capacity of ED director and county manager.
The good news is the county will once again secure the services of an ED director. But that is only one step.
There needs to be a comprehensive strategy to move Ashe County forward. While the private sector can play a vital role, the strategy must be developed, facilitated and implemented by local government.
While it might appear challenging, economic development is a smooth road compared to the potholes the county will face addressing future school funding needs.
There’s more than just the construction and maintenance of the county’s school buildings at stake. The digital age is here, and, for the most part, Ashe Schools have yet to get in the game. Nearly every county adjacent to Ashe provides its students either a laptop or computer tablet. Ashe doesn’t. It’s only a matter of time before the state requires students to plug in, and every county better be prepared to open its wallet, because that is considered local funding.
Does the current leadership of the county have the widespread support of the public?
It’s impossible to make an absolute determination, but according to the nine women and men who tossed their lots into the political arena, no.
Now, they must offer the county’s voters their vision of a prosperous and growing Ashe.