Berlester Campbell, the vice chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, on Monday night made a nice gesture, recognizing Commissioner-elect Faline Locklear Dial, who had a seat in the audience for the board’s regular meeting. Campbell was conducting the meeting in the absence of Chairman Raymond Cummings, and his tip of the hat to Dial was both appropriate and encouraging.
Dial stood, smiled and acknowledged the glad hand that was offered by the commissioners as well as those in the audience.
It will be interesting to see if everyone is smiling in early December, when Dial takes an oath to become only the second woman to serve on the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, following in the footsteps of the late Billie Britt. We welcome the idea of a mother of two daughters, one grown and one school-aged, bringing a different perspective to a traditionally all-male board.
Dial has already signaled she will be a force to reckon with. Self-made and successful as a businesswoman, she was frank in an interview for a story by Managing Editor T.C. Hunter that was published on Sunday, not ignoring realities that are evident on the board, but also not picking any fights.
In a Q&A The Robesonian published in advance of the election, Dial came down on the right side of several important issues, local money for schools, Angel Exchange, litter, and hiring decisions. Then she won election, and while it was not an overwhelming margin, it was fairly comfortable. That was achieved by Dial despite facing an opponent who is popular in the community, educated, articulate, accomplished — and himself would have made a fine commissioner.
In the Q&A, she questioned the pay and benefits, saying: “Is it too much to expect our leadership to set the example? The county commissioners are part-time servants to the people and should be paid accordingly. They should not be paid any more or receive more benefits than the part-time employees on the county payroll.”
We have spent six years questioning why commissioners in the poorest county in the state are the best paid and benefited in the state, and have been frustrated that there has not at least been a vote on the issue so the public can see who supports this thievery and who doesn’t. That might change now. A 4-4 deadlock won’t roll back the pay and benefits — but it will force some commissioners to reveal their own greed.
We believe Dial has a mandate from the people of her district, which is majority American Indian, that they are ready for different governance.
Dial has been a keen observer of the board, but even Sleepy would know that the board is split almost down the middle, with Chairman Cummings calling the shots, and Roger Oxendine, Campbell and Jerry Stephens following along. Noah Woods, sadly, is no longer himself, but does as he is told.
That leaves David Edge, Tom Taylor and Lance Herndon on the outside looking in.
It’s just another sad aspect that the division is along racial lines, but so often that is what happens in Robeson County.
Dial is an American Indian who lives in Prospect, and we doubt she understands fully the pressure that she will find herself under after she takes the oath of office. She is probably already getting a taste of it.
Dial has said her philosophy will be simple: “I’m going to stay focused on this question: Is this the right thing for our taxpayers’ dollars, and is this the right thing for the people of Robeson County?”
That should be the expectation of all the commissioners; sadly, it not only isn’t expected, it surely isn’t the reality.