January 11th I emailed an application for the historic preservation committee to the town clerk. One other person applied before me so the clerk emailed back to ask if I was interested in any other committees. I knew there would be an opening on the Veterans Affairs Commission (VAC) so I told her I’d like to be considered for that.
January 22nd, prior to the board’s regular meeting, the nominating committee, which is made up of Commissioners Mitchell and Legge, met to fill vacant committee seats. They appointed Al Ferri to the VAC. During the regular board meeting they announced there were only two applicants, myself and Mr. Ferri. They also voted to keep all applications on file for one full year.
January 24th I attended the monthly meeting of the Veterans Affairs Commission with my husband,who was appointed to the commission in October. During that meeting, Ron Mowery submitted his wife’s resignation letter, creating another vacant seat. Since it was established on the 22nd that I was the only other applicant and my application would be kept for a full year, the commission assumed I’d be appointed.
“Better than honor and glory, and History’s iron pen, Was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men.” — Richard Watson Gilder
The Hope Mills Veterans Affair Commission was founded nearly a decade ago by local veteran Jim Clark. Jim and his wife Jean served on the commission together until October when Mr. Clark passed away. The Mowery’s have also served the commission faithfully for years. In fact, there have been at least five couples serve on this commission. And countless other couples have served together on other town committees.
During the February 4th meeting, Commissioner Mitchell proposed a new rule…
“I don’t think in our policies that we have anything prohibiting immediate family members from being on the same committee and I’m not against immediately family serving on different committees, but I think it empowers one family with too much to be sitting on one committee given the fact that each member is allowed to vote – so I would like to either revisit that policy or go ahead and amend it right now – that immediate family members cannot serve on the same citizens committee.”
It’s a pity we don’t have a CPA or someone on the board who can add. There are seven voting seats on that commission. Even if Jim and I voted together on every issues, there are still five other voting members. How much power could we possibly wield with only 28% of the votes? And the board is considering adding two more voting members. But what the hell kind of misogynistic crazy made Mitchell assume I would always vote with my husband? Is this not 2019? Are women not allowed to think for themselves and vote for themselves?
Until October there were two married couples serving on that commission. And Mrs. Mowery resigned her seat 10 days prior to Mitchell’s new rule. The commission literally had a married couple serving on it ten days before he proposed the rule.
Commissioner Edwards reminded them there was a couple on the Appearance Commission who worked so diligently for the town they won awards. And that on many occasions there were brothers and sisters serving, sisters and sisters, and brothers and brothers. Mitchell said he was not opposed to siblings serving together on one committee, just spouses. To be fair, Mitchell clarified his motion was to prevent immediate family living in the same household from serving together. Apparently brothers and sisters would never live under the same roof and theoretically, I could be appointed if I moved out of our house.
The reasoning for this rule made no sense. Then Commissioner Legge spoke, “The problem – as a member of that nominating committee we have no guidelines. Something like this may help us sort some problems out.” There were no problems with married couples serving together on committees prior to this conversation.
Legge continued, “What we need to do is concentrate on people that work in harmony with the board – uh and that might be a motion forthcoming, to have somebody not be named to a committee because they don’t work in harmony with this board…I see where Mayor Pro Tem is coming from.”
Now it makes sense. The problem isn’t that a married couple would throw off the balance of power. The problem, is that I’m exercising my First Amendment right to free speech and they don’t like it.
Once again Mitchell, Larson and Legge voted to approve a strike against the veteran community.
“The reward of one duty is the power to fulfill another.” – George Eliot
I enlisted in the Air Force when I was 19. After basic training and tech school I was a Command and Control Specialist in the 1st Special Operations Wing command post. I had a top secret clearance before I was 20. The united states government trusted me, while I was still technically a teenager, to make sound decisions that impacted national security. But this board doesn’t trust me to know how to separate what I write about here, and my responsibility to the veteran community. Ironically, it’s their inability to separate me, the blogger, from me, the veteran, that led Mitchell to propose this rule.
Lisa Waring is also a local columnist and the moderator of the infamous Hope Mills Chatter. Not only has she made a habit of writing disparaging parodies of the board, but she and members of her Facebook group had a conversation not long ago wherein they accused the Mayor’s son and executives of Lone Survivor Foundation of federal crimes. Will Mitchell and Legge find that she’s not ‘in harmony with the board’? Will they remove her from the historic preservation commission? It only seems fair.
It’s also worth noting that another precedent was broken that night. Traditionally, if the nominating committee can’t put you on the committee you’ve requested, they’ll offer you a position on one of the other committees with vacant seats. Town staff have been advertising vacancies on the Lake Advisory Committee and the Appearance Commission since January 31st. I don’t have family on either of those committees…and the board didn’t offer either of those positions to me.
The board sent a clear message…your Constitutional rights don’t exist in Hope Mills. Mitchell freely blocks citizens from commenting on his social media accounts, and discourages staff from attending political events during their off time, and now, if you exercise your freedom of speech, if you dare to criticize them in any way, you’ll be blacklisted.
There’s a reason you have to be a veteran to serve on the Veterans Affairs Commission, only a veteran understands the sacrifice, the commitment, the camaraderie and the needs of the veteran community. This board would prefer there’s one less person advocating on behalf of our veterans, than appoint me to a commission. 22 veterans commit suicide daily because they don’t have the resources and advocates they need, and this board would prefer to wait in the hopes that someone ‘in harmony’ with their ridiculous ideas applies for the position. How many men will die before they appoint someone? Are our veterans less important than the members of this board?
To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan. Abraham Lincoln
Editor’s note – this was one of several issues regarding the Veteran Affairs Commission that was discussed at the Feb. 4 meeting. The other issue will be addressed later.