Time is now for Robeson to dispense with failed leadership

Change is obviously needed in Robeson, but not a half dozen of the other.

This May primary, which ends on Tuesday when as many as 10,000 people are expected to go to the polls, offers the chance for the right kind of change. It also offers the chance for more of the same.

The decision is yours — unless you sit idly at home, and continue to allow people who are paid to haul uninformed voters to the polls to control local leadership.

We try not to get seduced into hyperbole, but we believe Robeson County is at a crossroads. This county has been in a free fall in recent years, primarily because of failed leadership on the Robeson County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County, and there isn’t much farther to fall.

As is frequently noted in these pages, Robeson languishes at the wrong end of so many quality-of-life lists, such as crime, education, jobs and health.

As Bob Dylan once lamented, “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” But there is plenty to gain.

Change is certain at the Sheriff’s Office, where Ken Sealey will leave after 13 years, having helped restore integrity that was lost to Operation Tarnished Badge. There are five candidates seeking that office, and four of them are qualified and possess the requisite integrity.

Johnson Britt will likewise exit as district attorney after 24 years, leaving behind a record of accomplishment despite limited resources and dealing with the problem of high crime, particularly the violent kind. Robeson County cannot go wrong as all three candidates are well-qualified and possess high character.

The race for the Board of Education is crowded with 14 candidates, four of whom are incumbents, seeking four seats. The field is not only deep, it offers quality. If voters take the time to do their research — and there is plenty of information on the candidates at robesonian.com, where our Q&A can be found — they will see there are candidates who are articulate, accomplished and have an arsenal of real ideas.

Then there is the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, where the opportunity exists for a power shift.

Noah Woods has served this county admirably for most of his 28 years, but is ill, and that illness has been exploited by the controlling faction of the board, which shamefully prompted him to raise his hand on a key Angel Exchange vote. There exists an opportunity to wrest control from those responsible for creating the mountain of pay and benefits, and those who pushed the purchase of a $6 million white elephant, an effort that we fear will be resurrected.

The tragedy is that those who keep this leadership in place are the ones who suffer the most because of it.

This newspaper has a long history of not endorsing candidates, and never has the temptation to do so been greater than it is today. But we must trust the voters to do the right thing.

They can show up on Tuesday, and nullify the votes of the “500 drug dealers” that one hauler promised to deposit at the polls, or they can expect a future that mirrors the past and present.

The haulers have earned their money. Consider that through Thursday, three Robeson County voting precincts are among the top 5 in all of North Carolina for the number of ballots cast. But the hauling has slowed in recent days as the ranks of those who would cast a ballot based on a pre-marked sample ballot have been exhausted.

Now is time for Robeson County residents to stand up to corrupt and failed leadership. We will know Wednesday if we are is up to it.