The members of the Ashe County Republican Party have spoken and they have decided they’ve had enough of county commissioners Judy Porter Poe and Gerald Price, the two incumbents who lost their bids in the primary to represent the GOP in the November General Election for the three open seats on the county’s Board of Commissioners.
It really shouldn’t come as much as of a surprise.
It’s no secret that Price has a troubling perspective on the role of government in today’s society. He has openly declared himself a “sovereign citizen,” or someone who doesn’t recognize the authority of the federal government. Serving as an elected government official while having those professed beliefs is counter-intuitive.
That he didn’t step down as a commissioner, after filing a $7.5 million civil lawsuit that named the Ashe County Sheriff as one of several defendants over the repossession of one of his vehicles, was always a mystery. Of course, as the Post covered this issue (and we will continue to provide our readers updates as the process winds its way through the courts), Price was always unavailable for comment.
One can only imagine what the scene was at the county courthouse last June during the annual budget discussions when the county manager learned of Price’s lawsuit. According to sources, after the commissioners had adjourned for lunch and returned to the budget meeting, former county manager Dr. Pat Mitchell told the commissioners, with Price present, about the litigation. Then, in a situation that can only be described as uncomfortably awkward, the commissioners had to discuss appropriating taxpayer money to defend the sheriff against a lawsuit from one of their own members – while he was sitting there.
Poe, for most of her 10 years on the board, has been a competent public servant. Her deep understanding of finances, especially in these trying economic times, has been especially valuable. She deserves a great deal of credit for the relative strength of the county’s financial health and for keeping the tax rate low.
However, more is needed than just being an expert at reading a balance sheet when it comes to the judgment and character required to serve as a county commissioner. It was no secret she was instrumental in the forced dismissal of two county managers, both of whom had wide community support, and still do.
Poe’s silence - and we include commissioners, Price and Gary Roark, who also voted to force Dan McMillan’s and Mitchell’s resignation – about her motivations to force both resignations demonstrated a hubris and a willful disregard for the public’s right to know that was alarming and disappointing.
And her suggestion to county employees that they “quit” if they protested Mitchell’s forced resignation was simply indefensible.
Incumbent Commissioner William Sands was untainted by these scandals and the party faithful rewarded his steady service with their votes in the primary. He will top the ticket in November for the GOP in the race for the three open seats on the board, with political newcomers Brien “Bruno” Richardson and Jeff Rose.
His primary success, and the ascension of Richardson and Rose, demonstrates that there was no surprise; that the GOP voters of Ashe County were clearly paying attention.