Spradlin: A glimpse of good governance in Summerfield

Dismissing mini-roundabout concept was a good first step

An editorial by Kevin Spradlin, editor of The Piedmont Post.

They came. They debated and discussed. They quipped and offered a snide remark here and there. In the end, though, Mayor Gail Dunham and members of the Summerfield Town Council — Mayor Pro Tem Dena Barnes and council members John O’Day, Reece Walker, Teresa Pegram and Todd Rotruck — offered their constituents mostly civil course and then came to a consensus: The mini-roundabout plan for the intersection of Summerfield Road and N.C. 150 is a no-go.

Summerfield_logoTo a degree, it doesn’t really matter if the decision was the right one. Frances Gallagher, of WithersRavenel, and subcontractor Jay Clapp, of Ramey Kemp & Associates, failed to persuade a majority of the town’s elected officials that moving forward with the design of the project was a good idea. Cost, pedestrian safety, traffic flow and aesthetics were key factors in the discussion.

Maybe a mini-roundabout is a good idea. Maybe it’s a good idea at this particular intersection. Far more important than the decision the council made, however, is the fact that the council actually made a decision. It was the first time that has happened  since Dunham, Pegram and Rotruck took their oaths of office four months ago on an issue of substance that did not result in a 3-2 vote split along “us” vs. “them,” or, more accurately, “the old guard” vs. “the newcomers.”

Instead, the members of the Summerfield Town Council acted as a board. O’Day, alone in wanting Gallagher and Clapp to pursue more information before a decision was made, even expressed a respect for and acceptance of his colleagues’ opinions on the matter.

The mini-roundabout concept is dead in Summerfield — on that, everyone can, finally, agree. It is the first time. Each member should be commended for their input and ability to reach a consensus. Town Manager Scott Whitaker’s role in the discourse also should be noted. Whitaker, who only two hours earlier survived a motion that could have cost him his job, smoothly and professionally facilitated the discussion and acted as liaison between the Gallagher and Clapp on one side and town officials on the other — and, at the appropriate times, between the mayor and various council members.

It was Whitaker who refocused the discussion and asked each council member to weigh in on the issue. By consensus, it was 4-1 that the mini-roundabout concept was dead. But it could mark, to borrow a phrase from the Founding Fathers, the start of a “more perfect union.”

This won’t necessarily bring an end to the subtle — and oftentimes less-than-subtle — jabs elected officials have taken at each other and staff, but hopefully it serves as the beginning to the end of such unnecessary behavior and allows everyone to work towards a better Summerfield. Let us hope so, anyway, for the sake of good governance.

Kevin Spradlin, Post editor, began his journalism career in 1995 and has covered municipal and county governments in Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri, Washington and Oregon for most of the last 12 years. He lives in Summerfield. Write him at news@piedmontpostnc.com.

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