A lot of folks were surprised a week ago today when they awakened and realized that out of the seven incumbents who sought re-election to the boards of Commissioners and Education, all but one won re-election.
We weren’t among those surprised — although we will cop to being hopeful. We knew what was happening at the One-Stop Voting sites — the hauling of unprecedented numbers of uniformed voters who could follow directions. It allowed the easy re-election of a county commissioner who didn’t campaign, presented not a single idea, and has nothing to point to as a board member as an accomplishment — unless being a yes man is a bullet point for the resume.
Burnis Wilkins was able to overcome hauling, if not comfortably, with a 17-month campaign through social media that effectively communicated his ideas and also convinced voters that he possessed the most robust resume for sheriff. He has provided a template, but following it requires a commitment and energy that frankly most candidates don’t possess.
Peggy Wilkins Chavis was the lone incumbent on the two boards to lose, a fate that was sealed when she was among The Six board members who ambushed Superintendent Tommy Lowry in January 2017. Some acts are unforgivable, such as an American Indian school board member casting essentially the decisive vote in firing an American Indian schools superintendent.
So what are we to take from this?
Can it be that Robeson County residents are satisfied with a dysfunctional school board that presides over arguably the worst school system in North Carolina, can’t conduct a genuine superintendent search, and 17 months after Hurricane Matthew continues to struggle to get traction in the construction of a new school to replace West Lumberton Elementary School, or find or build new digs for the central office?
In a bit of irony, a desire for change motivated 10 challengers for four seats on the school board, but the effect was to dilute the voting sufficiently to the benefit of the incumbents, who always have a head start in any election.
Expect little change on the school board.
Can it be that Robeson County residents are satisfied with our county commissioners, some who have demonstrated repeatedly their absolute disdain for the will of the people, have enriched themselves like no other commissioners in this state, who flirted with a $6 million purchase that defies any logic, and who continue to interfer with hiring decisions in key positions not only with the county, but other critical institutions?
Still, we see a ray of light on the next Board of Commissioners.
Faline Locklear Dial would be entering her second term on that board except for a phone call that was made late on primary day in 2014 that got enough hauled voters to give Noah Woods a seventh term as commissioner by two votes. Illness forced Woods to not seek re-election, and when he exits in December the 5-3 majority that allows Chairman Raymond Cummings to do as he pleases will no longer be assured.
On Sunday, this newspaper plans a story to give readers a better introduction to Dial, an accomplished Pembroke businesswoman who will become the second female to serve on the county Board of Commissioners. We know that Dial will be pressured hard to fall in line, but we know her as a thoughtful person, someone not looking for the highest bidder.
So perhaps the Board of Commissioners of the future will be one that deadlocks often at 4-4, effectively giving us gridlock. It would be preferable to what we have had to endure.