What is best for Ramseur?

I don’t know Tim Cranford very well, but we’ve had a few conversations over the years, so I think I have some sense of how he feels about his hometown and the job he wanted to do as a commissioner. He came to the house and spoke with us for a couple of hours back in 2019 when he was running for his seat on the board and the one thing I took from that discussion above all else was how much Tim loves Ramseur. All he wanted to do was whatever was best for Ramseur.

With that in mind, I began thinking about Tim’s empty seat. Our town’s corporate charter stipulates that our town is supposed to be governed by five elected, or appointed, commissioners. I don’t believe Tim Cranford ever expected to be away so long, but just a few weeks ago he was quoted telling a mutual friend he feared he wouldn’t be able to run for office again this year. 

Tim Cranford wants what is best for Ramseur, and I can’t help but believe he’d want to see that seat filled and a full board of five citizens making those important decisions. Since only three people signed up to fill three seats for this November’s election, and two of those three people are already seated – one by appointment – I thought that perhaps the other members of the board might agree that the best thing for Ramseur is to move forward with the full board our founders intended us to have by seating the third of this year’s crop of three candidates. 

At last Tuesday’s meeting, there were many issues on the agenda: a new rec ball league, new vehicles to purchase, changes to the planning board, and a proposal for 1352 new “smart” water meters, among others. I had thoughts on all those topics that might have been useful: ideas that I didn’t hear anyone else suggest and which might have led to different outcomes or moved some items closer to a final vote, but if the four current commissioners don’t want to listen I can’t make them.

I wish there was a possibility that any one of us might lose in a four or five-way election where we actually have to work to gain our seats or some chance to go back to ignoring the trainwreck that is our local government for another few years. I had hoped there would be at least five candidates for you to pick from on November 7th, but that won’t be the case, because only three people bothered to file to run for those three seats. That’s it, you’re stuck with us for the next four years. 

Two of those three people are already seated commissioners; one elected, one appointed. The experts at the UNC School of Government have written about vacancies on municipal boards several times, and some of that is what I handed out to the commissioners last Tuesday night. I realize now that I should have emailed those documents to the board members earlier in the day so they could have read them ahead of time. That was my mistake, and I apologize.

In January 2013, Frayda Bluestein wrote: “A city or county board member may obtain a leave of absence for protracted illness or “other reason satisfactory to the governing body” of the city or county under G.S. 128-40 (counties) or G.S. 128-41 (cities). This appears to be an option that is rarely exercised. It must be initiated by the board member seeking the leave of absence and is approved by the governing body. While on leave the board member does not receive a salary but retains any sick leave to which he or she is entitled. The leave does not extend the term of office. These statutes also authorize the governing board to appoint a temporary replacement who must be qualified to hold the office and who has all of the “authority, duties, perquisites, and emoluments” of the official who is temporarily replaced.”

The commissioners are within their rights, legally and morally, to fill every seat at that desk. I have many constructive ideas that I don’t hear being brought up and I have over three decades of infrastructure and business experience to offer. I’m ready and able to go to work the second three commissioners, or two commissioners and a mayor, are ready to ask.

Public comment to the Board of Commissioners, Tuesday, 15, August 2023.

Good evening, Mayor and Commissioners, it’s good to be with you tonight. 

Our board faces many important decisions in the coming months, but tonight you’re only operating at 80% efficiency; Commissioner Cranford’s seat remains vacant. 

Three people filed to run for the three open seats on the ballot this year, and we are all in this room tonight. The five of us will be Ramseur’s commissioners for at least the next two years.  

Some time ago, Commissioner Cranford submitted a request to be excused for an extended leave of absence having to do with his health. I hope tonight finds Tim in a comfortable place and in better health, and I think we all thank him for his service to the community. 

It is my understanding that the members of this board have been within their rights, at any time since accepting Commissioner Cranford’s request for leave, to appoint an interim commissioner to Mr. Cranford’s vacant seat. 

I stand ready to work. 

Thank you.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Jay Hubbard. 

I’ve spent the last thirty-odd years working around just about every type of construction/roadway/right-of-way construction or maintenance you can imagine: I locate underground utilities for a living. I spent almost twenty years working for the public “811” services and a couple of civil engineering firms. I’ve been self-employed as a private consultant for the last 13 years or so.

I’ve been a citizen of Ramseur for about nine years now, and I’m on the ballot this year to fill one of three open seats on our town’s Board of Commissioners.

To me the most important issue facing Ramseur is the same one I’ve been talking about for almost a decade:  Ramseur needs a town manager!

I’ve been told too many times that Ramseur cannot afford a town manager, but I don’t buy it. I say Ramseur can’t afford NOT to hire a manager

Four years after a hard reset in the town offices and turning over the entire elected board we are still at least a full year behind on mandatory state budget audits, and we have become more reliant on outside professionals, contractors, and consultants over the last four years, not less.

This is not the way.

Since I began watching our local government in 2015, we have seen no less than nineteen (19) people occupy the five seats on our board. Over the years I have watched everything from important long-term goals to minor civil ordinance changes get lost in the shuffle as board members came and went.

For example, an ordinance banning engine braking was adopted by the Board of Commissioners back in mid-2019. That board voted to post signs and fine violators, and then the ordinance was forgotten. Signs were never posted. The ban was unenforceable until I wrote about it earlier this year. Within a month the signs were installed.

Another example is the Highway 49 waterline extension. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a pipeline needed to serve a community just north of town where people have been living with contaminated wells for decades.

It’s a project that should have been completed a decade ago or more. Instead, the project was picked up and dropped and picked up, and dropped, and picked up again in 2019 only to be dropped again in, I think it was 2020?

To me, it’s never been a question of whether the water line should be built. The question is how? How do we get there from here? I want to be part of that discussion.

You’ve heard the saying, too many cooks spoil the broth, right? Well, we’ve had too many cooks in Ramseur’s kitchen for too long.

Think about it. A governing board of five essentially random citizens, acting as managers of all the town departments, changing members every few years? That’s a really inefficient way to run anything, especially anything as complex as a town. This lack of cohesive professional management is the root of most of the political drama Ramseur’s Boards have been infamous for since long before I moved into town. Let’s not go backward even further this year.

Having a town manager will reduce miscommunications and misunderstandings across the board. One employee, responsible to the Board of Commissioners, charged with leading our administrative office and overseeing the management of every department the town operates is the continuity and stability Ramseur so badly needs to prosper and grow sensibly in the coming years.

Having a qualified town manager would allow Ramseur’s Commissioners more oversight and input into policy decisions, not less, and I hope it will ultimately lead to more citizen engagement with the board and its decisions.

These are improvements I think most of us would like to see, and I’m looking forward to being a part of how we get there.