Arrogance robs Polk County Citizens

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Arrogance and lust of power seeped their way into the hearts and minds of man long ago. The same have infiltrated the thoughts of government officials since the foundation of civilization.
It all happened so easily then, and continues to occur now.
Many well-intentioned men and women find themselves in positions of power never aiming to abuse the confidence instilled in them by citizens.
It happens every day however, and now it has happened in Polk County.
Monday, March 3 the majority of the Polk County Board of Commissioners – Michael Gage, Keith Holbert, Ted Owens and Tom Pack – chose to “accept the resignation” of county manager Ryan Whitson.
Just one month ago, Whitson submitted a letter to commissioners of his intent to return to Polk County on March 10. He spoke in that letter of how he was “glad to be coming home.”
Whitson has yet to return to Polk County from active duty with the Army reserves, but he and the county are already splitting ways.
What could possibly have happened between this commission and Whitson to warrant such a premature separation? Two members of this commission have yet to even work with Whitson since they took office.
It must have been something significant, as the commission sees the situation so dire they feel it appropriate to pay Whitson $178,590 to leave the county and the job he has successfully completed for seven years.
How is such an expenditure of tax payer dollars good for Polk County?
If Whitson chooses to voluntarily leave, why must Polk County taxpayers pony up the cash to fund his departure? It seems to this editorial staff that Whitson’s exodus must not be so voluntary.
An unusual series of events, have all led up to this parting.
In the middle of February, interim county manager Marche Pittman presented a proposal for the creation of an assistant county manager. Looking at the numbers and hierarchy of counties similar in size to Polk, few others seem to see the need for such a position. So, why create one in Polk County?
Would the county be better managed with a county manager and an assistant county manager? Would there be savings somewhere that we could not see from our viewpoint?
Supposedly, Whitson agreed to the creation of the assistant county manager position. We have to wonder why he would align himself with this decision. Whitson had accomplished his job successfully for seven  years on his own. He was easily one of the most fiscally conservative county managers Polk County has had in recent memory. Would he really have approved of such an expense?
This is where we think arrogance and lust of power come into play.
In our opinion, it was an insult for commissioners to insinuate Whitson couldn’t do the job on his own. Sure, most would like more help on his or her job, but would you appreciate such help if that person were offered a salary almost as high as your own?
Last, year the commissioners were pinching pennies in department budgets saying how important it was to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. Now commissioners have flippantly dipped into the fund balance. They’ve dipped into the county’s savings to pay for actions that will cost taxpayers not only hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay Whitson off, but also likely another $100,000 to pay for his replacement, whomever that will be in the end.
We also see the assistant county manager position back on the table with someone else hired as the permanent manager. Surely someone with less experience would need an assistant if Whitson, with decades of county government experience, needed one. If that is the case the county would potentially be looking at another approximately $90,000 spent on salaries.
Commissioners are making decisions of which we don’t believe the majority of Polk County taxpayers approve. We hope all men and women in positions of power remember that it is the citizens, the voters, who placed the power to govern in your hands. These voting members of the public – all of them, and not a select group – are the ones whose opinions and concerns should guide your decisions.
Arrogance and lust of power have certainly had their day across the ages, but they have no place governing Polk County.

–  Editorial staff,
Tryon Daily Bulletin

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