Frustrated with political mind games

Published 4:12 pm Saturday, May 1, 2010

I usually don’t have much to say about local elections.

Like most anyone, I have a variety of opinions where local elections are concerned, but because I have to work with whoever wins, I rarely comment publicly about the outcome.

Let me say first, this column is in no way an endorsement of any candidate, but a comment on local campaigning.

During the last several months, my wife and I have gotten a variety of political postcards, read advertisements and even talked to several candidates in person.

What has my ire at the moment, however, is a charge that I keep seeing used against incumbent commissioners throughout this region. It seems to never fail that the person who is running against an incumbent charges that there is no discussion among the commissioners and that they always agree.

That charge is interesting to me for a multitude of reasons.

First and foremost is that it simply isn’t true. I’ve covered commissioners in Bertie, Hertford, Northampton, Halifax and Washington counties during my 20 years as a reporter. I have seen the boards run the gamut from getting along extremely well to barely being able to be in the same room.

As currently constituted, the boards in Bertie and Hertford counties get along most of the time. I single those two out because I cover them on a regular to semi-regular basis.

The commissioners in those two counties work together well and have learned to disagree without being disagreeable. There’s certainly no crime in that.

Are there a lot of 5-0 votes in those two counties? Yes. Should there be? Yes. I would venture to say that 90 percent of the recorded votes in a commissioner’s meeting are easy. No one should vote against minutes or reports or board appointments unless there is an extenuating circumstance.

On those other issues, there is nothing wrong with reaching a compromise.

Yes, I’ve covered split votes by both boards. Sometimes there simply isn’t a way to reach an agreement and each board member most vote his conscience. There’s nothing wrong with that either.

To accuse members of collusion or even to say there is always agreement among the board members is simply false.

How do I know? Well, that brings me to my second point and probably the one that irks me the most. I know because I’m sitting in the meetings. I watch commissioners discuss – many times at length – the issues of county government.

I watch them work together to reach a compromise when one is possible and I watch individual commissioners vote against the majority when they simply can’t be swayed.

Why then do those running in opposition to current board members accuse them of always agreeing with the majority? In my opinion, it is either to gain some political advantage or because they simply don’t know the truth.

It’s easy not to know what is going on in a commissioner’s meeting if you don’t attend.

How many candidates for county commission have I seen at meetings since they filed to oppose the county leaders? None. Maybe that’s why people campaign with ideas that simply aren’t true.

Thadd White is Staff Writer and Sports Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.