Editorial: Ford as chairman: Persistence pays off

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying. You could become chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners some day.
That’s the case for China Grove broadcaster Carl Ford, who ran for county commissioner several times before winning big in November as the leading vote-getter. Now the board has elected him chairman.
Ford could serve the county well. Though he is new to the commission, he has learned a lot while serving on the Planning Board and Social Services Board. He may know more about the inner workings of local government than some sitting commissioners. Now that he’s chairman, he’ll need diplomacy as well as knowledge of county issues. It takes more than Robert’s Rules of Order to be fair and evenhanded with people who don’t agree with you. Ford appears to have the temperament and principles for the job.
He’ll need awareness of the separation between church and state, too. “I’ve been called an ultra-right-wing, Bible thumping conservative. That’s all right,” he has said. And that is all right in appropriate situations. But the Constitution, not the Bible, is the framework for this democracy. Ford has served on other county boards without forgetting that, so it seems unlikely he’ll try to turn Rowan into a theocracy now.
Ford showed a more moderate side during his 2008 campaign, giving signs he might approve economic incentives and a land-use plan ó pivotal issues of late ó in the right circumstances. That suggests Ford will be more open-minded than others who have worn the conservative label. If he doesn’t live up to that potential, in four years he could wind up like fellow conservative Jim Sides, on the outside looking in, wishing he’d won re-election.
Now that Ford’s persistence has paid off with a victory, he should lead the board into solving some of the county’s persistent problems. High on the list has to be establishing a better relationship with the city of Salisbury. No one expects city and county to see eye-to-eye on every issue, but treating each other with mutual respect would be a step forward.
Land use also gets picked at from time to time but never resolved. The recession has given the county a respite from aggressive development of its rural areas ó every cloud has a silver lining. But when things heat up again, the county will need a land-use plan in place to guide development and convince the rest of the world Rowan is not stuck in the last century.
Of course, the board’s immediate task is to keep government spending from outpacing tax revenues. On top of the job freeze already in place, the county may have to trim its budget. But commissioners should keep looking forward and positioning Rowan for growth. Until the county attracts more jobs with good wages, every year will feel like a recession.

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