In the summer of 1979, the nation faced an energy crisis, high unemployment and an upward trending inflation rate. In response, President Carter delivered his “crisis of confidence” speech describing how the country hadn’t come together to solve its problems. His speech was overwhelmingly popular with positive phone calls and mail pouring into the White House. Carter even received an 11 percent rise in his popularity. The speech ultimately came to be known as the “malaise” speech, though he never used that term.
In hindsight, many claim Carter’s presidency was a failed one and mistakenly blame that speech as one of the primary causes. It wasn’t. What caused Carter’s problems was his failure to seize on the opportunity the speech opened up for him. Just two days after giving his speech Carter fired his Cabinet and his poll numbers plummeted as it seemed as if the government was in crisis. He never fully recovered from that perception.
Here in Ashe County our Board of Commissioners has exercised its own form of malaise over the past several years. The single party Republican rule of the county has stifled innovation, forward progress and effective governance. Even with an “R” after their names, commissioners haven’t come together to solve the county’s problems. Three personalities stand primarily responsible.
“Sovereign Citizen” Gerald Price, a man who doesn’t even recognize the legitimacy of governments, was put into office by Republican voters. He spent the majority of his time failing to pay his personal bills and taxes, bringing frivolous lawsuits against the county and county employees and he voted against virtually any proposal to improve the lives of fellow Ashe Countians.
Judy Porter Poe, the ethically challenged commission chair and later vice chair, was primarily responsible for the forced resignation of two former outstanding county managers. In the first instance, Poe was proven to have lied to the public about the circumstances and attempted to conspire with the other commissioners to keep the truth from voters. In the second instance, Poe also threatened the jobs of county employees if they showed support of the outgoing county manager.
Fortunately Price and Poe didn’t survive primary challenges in 2014 and were forced out of office. Unfortunately, Poe filed to run again and is on the 2016 primary ballot.
Gary Roark is the third personality responsible for this malaise. During his tenure as chairman, his lack of vision and competence came to the forefront. Rather than leading the Board in tackling substantive issues, he focused on trivial matters such as putting the motto “In God We Trust” on county buildings. Showing his lack of fiscal responsibility, Roark and his cohorts even authorized county funds for this purpose when a private group had offered to pay for it. Roark is seeking re-election.
The primary voting period is upon us and three Board seats are being contested; Roark’s, the seat currently held by Brien Richardson (who isn’t seeking re-election), and the seat held by Larry Rhodes. Rhodes and fellow commissioner William Sands have long been the Board’s only occasional voices of reason. Rhodes deserves to face voters in November.
However, Poe has proven she lacks integrity and Roark has demonstrated he lacks competence. Republican primary voters should reject them both and give general election voters a slate of candidates with genuine potential.
In doing so they can grant Poe more time to focus on her income tax business and allow Roark more time to spend at Hardee’s modeling his stylish cut-off blue jean shorts. These are things they’re actually good at.
Ken Lynn is a retired USAF colonel. He’s an adjunct online instructor with the USAF Air University.