Publisher Bill Bowman cedes his usual column space to Earl Vaughan Jr. this week. Vaughan Jr. talks from a personal perspective about an issue plaguing Hope Mills leadership.
I’ve known Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner since she was the cheerleading coach at Douglas Byrd High School years ago.
Warner was one of the first cheerleading coaches at that time who pushed the envelope for her young charges. She sought to have them treated as athletes and fought for opportunities to help them get better at what they did.
As often is the case when someone tries something new, there were those who pushed back, sometimes hard. Warner played by the rules, but whenever possible, she got those rules to change. Today, cheerleading is officially recognized as a sport by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and even has its own championship competition.
So, where am I going with an editorial talking about Warner and her cheerleading days?
Well, she’s living them again in her relationship with the current Hope Mills Board of Commissioners.
Ever since she was elected mayor, Warner has worked to promote the town of Hope Mills, to improve the quality of life for both its citizens and its businesses, and to be an ambassador for the town.
I asked her for a copy of her schedule of duties as mayor for the last couple of months, and I got exhausted just reading the list. She’s attended countless meetings and official events, representing the town, boosting its image and networking with other political leaders in Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
And that’s just her elected job. She also owns and operates a small business and is a grandmother of five, which at times calls on her to be a caregiver to small children in her family while their parents are working.
There’s a faction on the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners that seems to think Warner can’t handle all that work. So, they keep using rules and loopholes and other bits of sleight of hand to continue whittling away at the responsibilities Warner has to cope with.
Even though Warner was involved in the fight to restore the Hope Mills dam about as long as anybody, the board decided not to let her travel to Seattle, Washington, when the restored dam won a national award.
And since the board didn’t want Warner to have to worry about voting on decisions regarding town property, they passed a rule that all five members of the board have to vote on property issues, which means Warner will never get to cast a vote.
They didn’t want her dealing with the headache of appointing members to certain committees, so the board recently voted to take that responsibility away from Warner, too.
And after Warner worked out a deal with the University of North Carolina at Pembroke to put some attractive artwork designed by UNCP students around town, no one on the board took the time to renew the deal to fund the art, since I guess they didn’t want Warner worrying about it taking up too much space.
It seems the board may finally be running out of things to take away from Warner, so in the spirit of former late-night comic David Letterman, I’ve got a “Top 10” list of things they might consider to put her completely at ease.
1. Construct a wall around her house. That way, she won’t be able to get out and do all those community-related things she does to boost the image of Hope Mills.
2. Build a garage for her at town hall, lock her car in it and don’t give her the key. This is in case she gets over the wall.
3. Force local businesses to relocate and get new phone numbers, then change street names so she can’t find them anymore to reach out for possible community partnerships.
4. Erect a “She’s Not Here” sign at town hall so people won’t bother her. Make sure said sign meets the newest, often-redrawn, sign ordinance.
5. Keep her from moving all her clocks ahead for daylight saving time. Then conduct all board business before she shows up for the meetings.
6. Since Warner can’t vote, let her present a monthly award for most uncooperative board member with a framed picture of the dam when it was still broken, since it’s hard to fix problems when elected officials can’t find it in themselves to work together.
7. Use some of that extra revenue from the distribution of county sales tax money that Warner helped negotiate with the Mayor’s Coalition to send her on an extended vacation.
8. Since she’s got a teaching background, set her up to teach a local course about ethics. The board members who skipped the earlier countywide ethics training that Warner helped organize can be the first students.
9. Close the mayor’s office, since the mayor can’t vote anyway. Fill it with copies of the decisions this board has made in the name of cutting Warner’s mayoral reach.
10. Finally, in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m kidding. Save one thing. Stripping Warner of mayoral authority isn’t good for her or the town of Hope Mills. Instead of being petty and power-hungry, this board should work with her, not against her, for the benefit of everyone.
Besides, she’s not going anywhere.
Hope Mills correspondent
NCHSAA Hall of Fame 2017