Goochland is, as County Assessor Glen Branham noted this week, a place where people can still have a little piece of the country.
The land here is lushly green, and the pace is slow (albeit a bit unsteady at times).
But these days, at least, it’s not entirely peaceful.
As officials and citizens gathered at last week’s Board of Supervisors, I overheard a county employee wish for a happier, quieter new year than the one Goochland has only just endured.
That sentiment got to last about five minutes before it was shattered; as a longstanding tradition of rotation was set aside, to the shock and chagrin of many on the board and in the audience, the disgruntled whispers in the audience began to rise to a rumbling roar.
For over a decade, supervisors had agreed to rotate, in order, the chairmanship from supervisor to supervisor, so that by the end of five years each of the five districts had been represented in the role.
Although William E. Quarles Jr., the new Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, is perfectly right in saying that the board’s rules state that an election for the chair must take place at the first meeting of the year, and District 5 Supervisor James W. Eads is similarly correct in noting that rotation is a gentleman’s agreement rather than a codified mandate, well, that’s not how District 4 Supervisor Malvern “Rudy” Butler saw it.
Butler was not alone in anticipating that his turn had come to lead the board; District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey noted that rotation had been an accepted practice. And he noted that eschewing that tradition, exposing the divisions amongst the supervisors, would be bad for morale.
I agree. Regardless of whether you supported Quarles or Butler as chairman, the exposed split is just unseemly.
I do believe that in this case it would have been best if the three supervisors (District 1 Supervisor Andrew Pryor voted with Quarles and Eads) had decided against staging what many saw as a coup.
And I wish that there had been a discussion during which Eads, Quarles and Pryor had explained to Butler why they would, or could, not support him as chairman.
Because now, instead of transparency, Goochland is right back in what seems to be its murky comfort zone. And instead of participating in government, citizens take on the role of voyeurs.
I, and I believe that there are others like me in this county these days, would like to have our elected and appointed officials give reasons for their actions.
“Old boys’ network” and “backroom politics” are, as one supervisor justifiably pointed out to me recently, vague terms that don’t really mean anything.
So why don’t we all stop being vague, and ask the specific question: Mr. Quarles, Mr. Eads and Mr. Pryor, will you tell the taxpayers and the electorate why, exactly, you did not want Mr. Butler to be chairman?