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Opinion Raleigh could take lessons from Macon County Commissioners

When I think of politicians, I can’t help but think of manipulative, deceptive, conniving individuals who use their titles to abuse their authority in order to push a personal agenda, and well, for the most part, I still find that to be true.

Now, I am not from Macon County, and as Ronnie Beale always reminds me, “I may not be from Macon County, but I got here just as fast as I could.” And after having the pleasure of working in Macon County for nearly a year now, I have found that the politicians who are working to serve Maconians are the exception to the rule, and in my opinion, are not only fair, honest politicians, but are also men of exemplary character.

Like I said, I have been covering meetings for various Town and County Boards for about a year now, and with my experience, I have come to know most of the county’s leaders pretty well. I would feel confident saying that the Macon County Board of Commissioners is a group of exceptional men who truly love the place they serve and the people who voted them into office.

Often times in politics, we are bombarded with the same old vitriolic rhetoric regarding the power struggle between Democrats and Republicans. Our national budget can’t be balanced because one side or the other refuses to compromise, or our state’s education is hurt by budget cuts handed down by one specific party. I can’t help but compare the majority of politics to a group of kindergartners fighting over toys; reasons are usually selfish and decision-makers are stubborn with no hope of compromise or understanding. The Macon County Commissioners are not plagued by this stereotype, and I think if an outsider was sitting in on their meetings, at times it would be impossible to tell which are Republicans and which are Democrats because the commissioners approach problems with the citizens of Macon County in mind, not what would be best for their political party. For example, when the rest of the nation is still struggling to recover from the recession, the Macon County Commissioners worked with the county manager and finance director to develop a proposed budget for next year that contains no tax increases, by utilizing $1.5 million of the undesignated fund balance, to include six new cars for the Sheriff’s Department, two new ambulances, a complete upgrade for Macon County Schools computer systems, and much more. AND, the proposed budget is three percent less than this past year’s budget. In my opinion, that is absolutely remarkable.

Each month I sit through the commissioners’ meetings, which rarely end in under two hours. This month, in fact, I sat in that meeting room for four hours. Four long hours. But in all honesty, I didn’t really mind it. I never really mind it because I enjoy seeing the commissioners. They often cut up in the meetings and joke with each other because they get along, and I think that is such an important part of the political process. They work hard for the county and want what is best for everyone in the county, and because they understand that, they are able to work together and compromise. This week, all five commissioners travelled together to Raleigh to speak to the state legislatures on behalf of Macon County. Maybe it happens all the time, but I am amazed by the strong, united front that the commissioners were prepared to present to the state, and I believe that in the end, the legislators were equally surprised and inspired by how well Macon County Commissioners are able to work together, and personally, I think the state could learn a thing or two.

Aside from being so warm and receiving of each other, the commissioners are so compassionate toward everyone they come across. I am amazed month after month by the commissioners’ devotion to Macon County. During the public comment period commissioners always listen intently to the citizens and show a genuine concern with whatever the issue is and when the meeting is over, commissioners follow through with it and work to find a solution every single time. Each meeting they have snacks and drinks to get them through and in my year of attending the meetings, never once have I seen a commissioner fail to offer a member of the press, or citizens in attendance the opportunity to join them for a snack or ask if anyone would like a refreshment.

These men have day jobs. They are a part of dozens of boards and subcommittees on top of overseeing the day to day operations of the county, yet, regardless of how small something may seem, they attend events and talk to citizens because they want to, because they genuinely care. At the beginning of every meeting, or before an event starts, the commissioners always, and I mean always, walk around and shake hands and greet as many people in the room as time allows. And it isn’t because they are “politicking” and trying to swindle votes. They want to know how your daughter’s fifth birthday party went, or how your son’s little league game turned out, or how things are going at the office, because they whole-heartedly care. I don’t think I have ever experienced a time where any of the commissioners have ever met a stranger. Anytime I have ever seen them, if they didn’t know you when they first shook your hand, I guarantee they knew everything about you before they stepped away. It is important to them, and I just can’t help but to admire them for that.

So, if I have not already said it enough, I want to commend the commissioners for their dedication to the citizens of Macon County. I truly am as inspired by their leadership in the community as commissioners as I am by their integrity and remarkable character as individuals.


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