Last updated: February 14. 2014 1:06PM - 873 Views
By Mac McPhail Contributing columnist

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If you are from this area, and are of a certain age, you were raised on watching the “Andy Griffith Show,” either when it was originally broadcast, or in reruns. So, are you good at “Andy” trivia? Let’s see. Do you remember that Rose was Andy and Opie’s first housekeeper on the show? Probably not, since she was only in the very first episode. And it is a good episode. Rose is getting married and leaving Mayberry. A five year old Opie liked the way things were, doesn’t understand why Rose is leaving, and doesn’t want things to change.

“Things were going real well,” complained Opie. He was determined not to accept the new housekeeper, and made it hard for his father, Andy, and for Aunt Bee, the new housekeeper. He said he didn’t like the way Aunt Bee cooked. (“Rose made it different.”) It was a difficult time for Opie, and he made it difficult for everyone else. But, by the end of the heartwarming episode, Opie accepts Aunt Bee. Aunt Bee is Andy and Opie’s housekeeper for the rest of the eight year run of the show, and most people can’t even remember that there was another housekeeper.

Opie had a hard time accepting change. But Opie was five years old. How about us? When faced with change, we, like Opie, say, “Things were going well.” We wonder why the change is necessary. But sometimes it is necessary. This is especially true in relation to today’s economic environment. I saw it personally throughout my working career.

When I started working for the N.C. Dept of Revenue, there were over sixty field offices throughout the state. By the time I retired, there were less than fifteen field offices left. I was the manager when two of the offices, Laurinburg and Clinton, were closed and consolidated with other offices. (I wonder if that says something about my management skills.) Did I like it? No. Did I raise objections to the consolidations? Yes. Did they work? No. The times and the economics mandated the change. But one thing I did was that when I realized that the change was going to take place, I worked to help manage the change as smooth as possible for everyone. In the long run, it ended up benefiting my career.

The times and economics we live in today are demanding change. And the change is going to take place, whether we like or agree with it. Of course, not all change is needed, or is a success. Time will tell if the Affordable Care Act will end up making healthcare in America better or worse. (It’s already made it more expensive for many.) If the changes caused by Obamacare fail, nearly all Americans will be affected. So any change by government should be carefully and thoughtfully considered as to its benefits and effects on its citizens.

The days of grants and money flowing out of Raleigh to the counties are just about over. The money just isn’t there. The same is true, or should be true, for funds coming from the Federal government. And the Feds are passing more and more of the costs of their programs to state and local governments. Unless it is absolutely necessary, the idea of issuing out more county bonds for funds is unfair to taxpayers in the future. These are the times and the economics in which we live.

In the past we could accept inefficiencies in local government because, like Opie said, “Things were going well.” In reality, things may have not been going that well, but there were enough funds coming in to cover it. But that is quickly becoming no longer the case. It’s time to seriously look at all areas of local government, including education and recreation, and see if changes are needed to deal with this new economic reality. This newspaper reported last week that courthouse security, which is needed, is going to cost taxpayers over $400,000 a year. Maybe more efficient use of the courts by the judicial system could help lower that cost. Other changes will also be needed, including possible changes in the property tax structure. These are among the issues that the candidates for local office should address specifically before the upcoming election.

Employees and those affected surely deserve to be treated fairly. But the taxpayers of Sampson County and Clinton also deserve fair treatment. Developing a plan to make local government more efficient that is gradual, but definite, can end up being fair to everyone. Planned change now will be certainly more desirable than drastic, forced change in the future.

The changes little Opie faced were difficult. But, he grew to accept Aunt Bee. Changes are coming, due to the economic realities of the times in which we live. It’s a reality. These changes can be managed correctly, and in a timely manner. And, like Opie and Aunt Bee, the new reality may actually end up being viewed favorably, and the past will be just a memory.

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