When I was a teenager in Floyd County, the locals regarded newcomers with suspicion and distrust. From what I understand, that attitude flourished in the 1970s when the “alternative lifestylers,” aka “hippies,” moved to the county in large numbers.
Today, many of those alternative life stylers are mainstays of the community — owners of businesses and promoters of programs to benefit all county residents. When I returned in 2004, I hoped the “not from here” syndrome had vanished.
Sadly, it has not.
At meetings of the county board of supervisors, I still hear phrases like “are they from here” used when considering appointments. Too often, we disregard suggestions by newcomers with a dismissive “well, they don’t know how we do things here.”
If someone who is new to the county comes on a little too aggressively, the locals too often shrug their shoulders and say “well, what do you expect? They’re not from here.”
I find myself falling into that trap, even though I’m “from here” but have spent a lot of time “out there.”
An area like ours must have an constant influx of new ideas and the energy that comes from those who bring them. These folks have made an investment in our county by buying property and investing a good part of their lives here. While we may not like some of the ideas or the style in which they are presented, we should not be quick to dismiss what they have to say.
Floyd’s new county administrator, Donald Campbell, attended his first board of supervisors meeting recently, but stayed in the background and let assistant administrator Terri Morris handle what would normally be his part of the meeting. Campbell comes to us from Galax and says he wants to learn more about the area before jumping in.
Others, less familiar with the “be careful before you jump” attitude that is so pervasive here, jump into the fray with enthusiasm only to find their efforts derided because people think they haven’t been here long enough to know the ropes.
While some may feel caution is best course of action, that is only the opinion of those who favor such a course. Other opinions may vary and should not be discounted simply because they are different.
Yet I also dismiss opinions of others. I’m a headstrong, passionate, opinionated man who too often issues flatout declarations without giving a damn about the consequences. I have a hair-trigger temper that I must fight 24/7 to control.
That point came home to roost recently when a friend sat down at lunch to tell me that the always-active Floyd rumor mill said that I “had a feud going” with Jacksonville Center Executive Director David St. Lawrence and was “trying to drive him out of the center.”
Neither is true, although I can see how some may have concluded that based on some comments I said in anger.
David and Gretchen St. Lawrence are friends of Amy and I and have been since before they came to Floyd. They were welcome guests in our home when they moved here nearly a year ago and their new home was not yet ready.
As a member of the Jacksonville Center board of directors, I recommended him to board president Wil Stratton as someone who might be able to help the center. Wil brought David in as a consultant and, on the basis of his report, the board hired him as the center’s first executive director. I did not participate in, or vote on, David’s hiring only because I felt it would be a conflict-of-interest because of our personal relationship with he and Gretchen. I did, however, publicly congratulate the board for hiring him after the vote.
David and I have had our differences over some of the actions he has taken as executive director. That is not unusual between two strong-willed personalities. David has clashed with others in the community. He was hired to try and accomplish a lot in a very short time and, as my granddaddy used to say, you can’t make a omelet without breaking eggs.
But I respect David for his abilities, admire his passion for the tasks he undertakes and envy his energy. I wish I had half his stamina.
Sadly, some things I said in the heat of the moment were passed on by others who may have misconstrued my intent, taken what I said too literally or flat-out lied about what I really said. I’ve been around the track long enough to understand when a hidden agenda is at work.
I have no hidden agenda when it comes to David. He is my friend and I hope to keep him as one. He is the executive director of the Center where I have a studio and serve on the board. I will do whatever I can to keep his talents at the center where they can best serve us, the community, and his passion for life.
If anything I said or did suggests otherwise, I was wrong in doing so. If anything I said or did caused a problem for David or Gretchen, I publicly apologize for having done so.
It was not the way one should treat a friend. I was wrong. Test pilots call it “screwing the pooch.” Boy, I screwed this one.