“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the county commission in action, but I went to the meeting on Jan. 31 to see how the latest airport authority hoopla would fall out. At issue was chairman Danny Yearwood’s veto of commissioner Ben Hendrix’s re-appointment of Don Holliday to the authority.
There’s been a lot of “he said, she said” floating around about the chairman’s veto being personal, not political, and about how Holliday’s going to bring commercial airlines and big freight planes to the airport, so I thought it might be an interesting meeting; I was right. First off, Yearwood announced he wants to dissolve the airport authority – Boom! just like that. No discussion of how that’s done or why he thinks it’s important, except “it’s in the best interest of Barrow County.”
That seems like more of a blanket statement than an actual reason, but to be fair to the chairman, it is also one of his favorite phrases. The voice of reason spoke up with commissioner Isaiah Berry’s suggestion to revisit the matter after some research has been done.
Next comes the discussion of Yearwood’s veto of Holliday, during which Hendrix accused the chairman of “acting on personal feelings,” “playing politics,” and “seeking to have his way.” True, possibly, but not a very flattering light to cast on our county and its leadership.
Then came the chewing over of the notion that it is “an affront to the idea that majority rules” for the chairman to veto an authority appointment that was approved by four of the six members of the board.
I’m going to have to agree with that point. After all, as commissioner Steve Worley pointed out, “It’s a sad day when, for the first time in (local) history, a volunteer position is being vetoed.”
Worley went on to say several times that the commission has more important things to do than “haggling over volunteer people serving on a board.” He told the commission his “plate is full,” and he doesn’t “want to take over the (airport) authority….There’s too much personal agenda going on.” Amen, Mr. Worley, amen.
But the real “Amen!” moment came when Berry took the floor and in his big, booming voice, told the board, “We need to quit bickering! What have we done in this county that’s worth a damn in the past two years?...I’m sick of it, absolutely sick of it!”
It was very hard for me not to stand up and scream “Amen!’ at the top of my lungs, but I was sitting near the front and didn’t want to give the folks who think I’m “odd” any more to talk about.
Then the “larger issue,” as Hendrix described it, of veto power abuse came ‘round again, with Hendrix again making the point that a dangerous precedent would be set if the action of the majority could be undermined by a chairman’s veto and a minority.
The meeting officially moved into the realm of way too much drama when the chairman proclaimed, in a loud, fervent and quivering voice, “I am not going to withdraw my veto!”
He said there are folks who want him to change, but “I’m not going to change! I’ll never change!”
What kind of life philosophy is that? Let alone, leadership credo?
Things took an even wider turn towards crazy when the chairman started waving around a CD of past commission chairman Doug Garrison’s last meeting, held on Dec. 9, 2008, saying Garrison had said, “Our (the county’s) money problems are over – we’re going to sell the airport.” The last time I looked, it was 2011…Relevance, please?
I left the meeting feeling frustrated and flabbergasted. It’s clear all six of those commissioners and the chairman care deeply about our county, its citizens, and doing what’s right. It’s also clear that the lack of sensible, unemotional leadership being exercised by the chairman has polarized the commission to the point of being ineffective more often than not.
What impression would someone “not from ‘round here” have about Barrow County if attending that meeting had been part of their research into possibly moving their family, business or industry here?
I had a little Banty rooster once. His name was Napolean because of his size, beautiful plumage and bigger-than-he-was demeanor. He could out-crow my other, much bigger roosters and, with his little chest stuck out proudly, he could out-strut the finest of them.
The similarities between Napolean and Mr.Yearwood kept coming to mind as I watched that commission meeting unfold. There is a time and place to pick a fight, as even my little Napolean knew; when is our commission chairman going to learn the same?
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a reporter for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.