Lloyd Johnson, a member of the Ashe County Transportation Authority Board of Directors and former town council member of Herndon, Va., criticized the Ashe County Board of Commissioners Monday for their handling of former County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell's termination, and suggested that County Commissioner Gerald Price consider resigning.
Speaking during the public comment segment of the board's October 7 meeting, Johnson, an Ashe County native, expressed concern that recent controversy surrounding the board has negatively affected the county's business climate.
“I have a little bit of experience with attracting industry to a location because I served on a town council in northern Virginia for 10 years, during which time we quadrupled the number of businesses in town,” he said.
“Over the last couple of years, I've been just paying attention to what's happening in the county, and how that might affect our ability to attract some business to Ashe County, which we need badly.
“One thing is, we had a policy that we didn't comment on controversial items in the paper. If we did something the people were unhappy with, we would be willing to talk with the people one-on-one; we just stayed out of the public comment after we had taken an action. I think that's a good policy that might be followed here.
“If you've gotten rid of two county managers in two years, businesses are going to look at that with a question mark that says 'what's going on there? That, to me, is going to be something that we need to overcome.
“You have every right to rid yourself of a county manager, because she serves at your pleasure. But, I always felt that gave me a whole lot more responsibility to make sure if I was going to try to replace the town manager, that I had a good objective reason for doing it.
“I though that placed a great burden on me to make sure that I was doing my job right.
“Once you've gotten rid of somebody, you don't have to explain it….To put it bluntly, shut up about it. I keep reading in the paper about all the bad things that (former County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell) did.
“Why didn't you take care of it before she left? It makes one look as if they didn't know what they were doing if they get rid of somebody, and then, after the fact, come up with excuses for having done so.
“I just think this makes Ashe County look bad,” he said.
Addressing County Commissioner Gerald Price, Johnson continued, “Also I think, Mr. Price, I think you need to give serious consideration to resigning, because what's going on with you is hurting this county…very badly.”
“It's what I would have done…when I was on the town council. I would have walked away and solved my personal problems without it coming back to make the county look bad, and it is making the county look bad.
“I hope all of you realize I'm not being personal, I'm just talking from the point of view of past experience, and what these types of things do to attracting industry,” Johnson said.
Editors note: This story has been modified from its original version, which incorrectly stated that Mr. Johnson is an Ashe County Native. Johnson was born in Watuaga County, but grew up in Ashe. He currently resides in Jefferson.