The Republican members of the Watauga County Commission completed their take-over of the Board of Directors of the Watauga County Tourism Authority this morning. The three Republican commissioners voted as a bloc to oust long-serving members Rob Holton and Mike Hall. Holton was the visionary chair of that board and had served on it since its creation. Both men have been exemplary public servants and have worked to make the parks, trails, and other recreational facilities in our county a "destination" for campers, hikers, canoers, and bikers from all over the country.
When time for the vote came at the end of their morning session, Chair Nathan Miller said he was concerned about potential "bad blood" and suggested the vote be done "by ballot," meaning via sheets of paper that would relieve the members of the Commission from openly declaring their preferences. The county attorney quickly pointed out that all votes by the County Commission are by law "open" votes; there can be no secret ballots.
After the meeting was adjourned, those ballots were surrendered for inspection, and indeed, commissioners Miller, Blust, and Gable voted to replace Holton and Hall with newcomers who may -- we're willing to hold our breath, at least for a month -- be every bit as forward-looking and visionary as the men they're replacing. But ... the trend has not been good on the TDA Board since the first round of replacements made by the commissioners a year ago. New board members have been voting against even seeking free money in the form of grants to develop and enhance recreational infrastructure in the county.
Time will tell where this new board will steer our collective vision.