Since becoming an all Republican board a few years ago, Ashe County’s commissioners have made many stunningly bad decisions. But none has been more atrocious than last week’s decision by the three congenitally partisan board members to defy the will of the people and hand the remaining portion of retired Sheriff James Williams’ term over to another political partisan, Terry Buchanan.
Williams ran unopposed in 2010 and in 2014 received more than 70 percent of the vote. Many principled Republican voters crossed party lines and voted for Williams because they had high confidence in his abilities and his judgment. When Williams announced his retirement, he laid out a succession plan that named his second in command, Major Bucky Absher, to succeed him as sheriff.
In stepped Buchanan, a former deputy who was no longer employed by the Sheriff’s Office. Claiming he had “great respect for Williams,” he said he initially intended to wait until 2018 to seek the position, but that a growing conservative entity in the county had encouraged him to seek the position now, including unnamed county commissioners.
Did you catch that? Unnamed county commissioners (plural) were actively seeking to undermine Williams’ succession plan. And that’s just what they did. In a brazen act of raw political nepotism, they tried to cover their tracks by hosting an interview with each of the three declared “candidates” to make it seem legitimate, though the outcome was already pre-determined.
It didn’t matter that over 70 percent of voters backed Williams and his administration. It didn’t matter that many current and former deputies, who obviously know best, spoke glowingly on behalf of Absher. It didn’t matter that fellow Commissioner William Sands, a 22 year Sheriff’s Office volunteer, gave his full-throated endorsement to Absher. It didn’t matter that Absher’s qualifications dwarfed those of Buchanan.
No, the only thing that mattered is Buchanan touted himself as a conservative Republican, politicized the position and ultimately showed that ideology trumps qualification.
In the military and in law enforcement, promotions aren’t given based on past performance. Instead they’re given based on future potential. Absher had a career clearly demonstrating future potential as he rose up the chain until he was second in command.
And what of Buchannan’s qualifications? Apparently he served in the military and did some time with Blackwater USA. With his “Rambo” resume you’d think he would’ve skyrocketed up the chain as well, but most of us plateau at our natural level of competence. While all law enforcement jobs are important, Buchannan topped out as door guard at the county courthouse and later as high school resource officer.
The state statue that governs filling a sheriff’s vacancy out of cycle tasks the county commissioners with selecting a new sheriff who possess the same qualifications as the departing sheriff. In this case there was absolutely no contest. Absher was the only candidate with the requisite qualifications.
While it’s shameful we don’t have a board made up of five competent and principled individuals that put the county’s interest first, like many of you I’m not surprised at the actions of these three commissioners. A pattern has emerged over the past years where conservative ideological purity is seen as more important than filling positions with the most qualified individuals.
Time and time again, Commissioner Gary Roark has proven he’s a political simpleton routinely voting against the county’s interest.
One would think Commissioner Jeff Rose, himself a career lawman, would’ve overlooked partisanship and supported the most qualified candidate. Instead, he’s brought a bumbling Inspector Clousea approach to governing. And I can’t help but wonder if Rose has his sights set on the job of sheriff and took this action to put a weaker candidate in place should he decide to run.
And then there’s Commissioner Paula Perry. Faced with her first big test she flunked miserably insulting a majority of county voters and those in the Sheriff’s Office.
Immediately after the trio inflicted their injustice on the county, Absher announced his own retirement. Three days later, Commissioner Sands, a volunteer detective, took a principled stance and also retired in solidarity with Absher.
In a matter of three weeks, the county has lost its three most experienced lawmen, two as a direct result of the board’s reckless action. When you tuck your kids in tonight though don’t worry. The commissioners have seen fit to turn our safety and security over to the former door guard. Does that give you a deep sense of comfort? Me either.
Bucky Absher for sheriff in 2018!