The following column was submitted by regular guest columnst Ken Lynn on March 16. The incident with Ashe County Commissioner Gary Roark he describes below has been previously covered in The Jefferson Post. You can read that article here.
Some years ago on the television show Hardball with Chris Matthews, former Georgia Governor Zell Miller, apparently unhappy with the questions asked by Matthews, challenged him on air to a duel.
On the morning of March 4, Ashe County Commissioner Gary Roark, apparently unhappy with my characterization of his service as a commissioner – and certainly without the class of Miller, challenged me to a brawl in the Hardee’s parking lot.
It all began when I sat down to enjoy my biscuit with gravy. Roark invited himself to interrupt my breakfast. In confronting me, Roark said when I wrote about him I should get my facts straight. I told him I had my facts straight. After the fourth or fifth time of repeating himself and me giving the same answer, I finally asked what he wanted to do about it. Unexpectedly, he said we could step out into the parking lot.
When Miller made his challenge on Hardball, Matthews and the entire production staff burst into laughter. When Roark made his challenge it was all I could do to keep a straight face. I give Roark a C+ for bravery, but an F for judgment.
I’ve never made reference to any “fact” that wasn’t already a matter of public record in the local media. It isn’t my facts that Roark has a problem with, rather it’s my opinion. I’ve consistently said I don’t think he possesses the competence or the vision necessary to be an effective county leader. Evidently he doesn’t understand the difference between fact and opinion.
By the way, I give Hardee’s gravy biscuits two thumbs up. That’s my opinion Mr. Roark, not a fact.
In Republican politics “small hands” has become an important part of the discourse lately. While I won’t go there, I will talk about “small-mindedness.”
Is Roark a politician that’s so thin-skinned and bereft of ideas that his answer to criticism from the opinion page is to channel his inner Donald Trump and threaten violence? In responding to something I wrote, Judy Porter Poe, the disgraced and now twice rejected former county commissioner, called Roark a “good Christian gentleman.” Really? Is that how any gentleman behaves?
I have nothing against Roark personally. In fact, I’ve previously said on this page that unlike his mentor and “political mama” Poe, I think he’s behaved ethically in office. But like Poe, he embarrasses himself and brings discredit to the Board of Commissioners.
The circumstances surrounding the proposed second asphalt plant perfectly highlights the small-mindedness of Roark. If he had the necessary competence and vision, he would’ve led the effort to create an industrial park in the county long ago so that when polluting industries wanted to locate here and offer employment opportunities, the environmental impact could be mitigated. Instead, no action was taken until Appalachian Materials Group expressed interest in opening a plant in Glendale Springs.
While I agree Glendale Springs is not the proper location for this plant, because the Board had failed to act previously, their recourse was to delay a decision by imposing a 6 month moratorium on issuing permits. During that timeframe a county high impact land use ordinance (HILUO) was drafted.
Unfortunately the setbacks in the HILUO are not enough and at a recent meeting the Board rightly rejected its adoption in its current form. But then Roark went even further expressing his disapproval of a second asphalt plant coming to the county. “I have no intention of padding the wallet of someone outside of Ashe County,” Roark indignantly said.
What? Does Roark not believe in capitalism and the free enterprise system? Does he not understand that competition between businesses is good for the consumer? Imagine if there was only one gas station or grocery store in the county. Does he not realize the second plant brings jobs to Ashe Countians? If you want to get your driveway paved, wouldn’t it be nice to have some competition over the cost of asphalt? Competition makes each business more efficient and lowers prices for everyone.
That single comment demonstrates Roark’s small-mindedness, lack of competence and limited vision. Unfortunately primary voters didn’t reject him. Let’s hope general election voters get the job done in November. The county deserves better.
Ken Lynn is a retired USAF colonel. He’s an adjunct online instructor with the USAF Air University. The views expressed here are his own.