One Garland citizen called board members to the carpet Tuesday night for lack of attendance at a recent town celebration, going so far as calling for the resignations of those unwilling to give “100 percent” for the town beyond regular board meetings — the comments drew the ire of a couple of commissioners.
During the public comment section, sandwiched in the middle of a two-plus hour Garland Board of Commissioners meeting, Sylvia Carter began by commending Mayor Winifred Murphy on the Christmas tree lighting ceremony the previous Thursday, which she called “another milestone for Garland.”
“To see so such much participation from the community was very rewarding,” said Carter. “To see the smiles on those children’s faces was just something you can’t measure. To see so many excited children awaiting the fire truck that brought Santa brought my thoughts back to my own childhood.”
She noted that there were two county commissioners present, Garland’s District 4 representative Harry Parker and Jefferson Strickland, as well as Roseboro Mayor David Alexander, “all who came to wish the town of Garland well on its very first endeavor to kick off the holiday season.” Along with Murphy, there was just one town commissioner present, Mayor Pro Tem Ralph Smith, she said.
“We had four town commissioners conspicuously absent,” she said. “It is your responsibility as a town commissioner to be there. There is no excuse short of sickness or death for your absence. You asked for the position to represent the people, you knew the salary was simply a measly $100 a month and you should have known, to be a successful commissioner, it would be demanding on your personal time. Nevertheless, you asked for the job anyway.”
Carter said the responsibility of commissioners extends beyond attendance “once a month for a couple hours” at the board meetings in the town hall.
“You represent the citizens and the merchants of the town of Garland. You are our voice,” said Carter. “You lead by example. There is a new sheriff in town now, and she gives more than 100 percent of her time. We should expect no less from you as our voice in this town. We expect you to be held to the same standard as the mayor.”
She sang the praises of Murphy, and noted the strides that have been made in the 10 months since she took the mayoral post. Carter said the town has experienced more growth under Murphy than it has in the last 40 years. There were audible “amens” from several in attendance.
She called for town board members to “step up and do your job” in the continued growth of Garland.
“That is an accomplishment that we all should be thankful for, and grateful, to see this town on the move again to become a nice little town. We could be a model little town,” said Carter. “Work with the mayor, step up to the plate and do your part to promote Garland. Become a real team player to help the town thrive and grow. You are our voice. If you are not willing to go the extra mile for the people you represent in this town and give your 100 percent, then you should do the town a favor and seriously consider resigning your position on the board.”
Commissioner Denise Toler interjected.
“Did you bother to check with any of us as to why we were not there?” she asked.
“That’s not my responsibility,” Carter answered.
“Well it is if you are going to come in here and condemn all of us,” Toler replied. “Oh, yes it is.”
Carter repeated that sickness or death should be the only excuse for an absence.
“I was at work,” Toler said, as husband and fellow commissioner Mike Toler backed her up. “I have to give my 100 percent there also.”
Carter said Toler knew what the job entailed when she took the position. As the exchange got more heated, Murphy pounded the gavel and reminded commissioners it was a public comment portion. Denise Toler again told Carter it was not right to condemn people without finding out the facts. Mike Toler took it further.
“Specifically, you’re not even a resident in Garland,” he said.
“I’m a merchant and a taxpayer in this town,” Carter shot back. “I have the right to say and express my opinion on any matter I wish. That is my right as a citizen and a taxpayer.”
“Well, I’m a citizen and a taxpayer too,” said Mr. Toler.
“And you or nobody else sitting here will take that voice from me,” said Carter. “None of you.”
Carter left to applause from some in the audience. Murphy thanked Carter for the comments, bringing the public comment portion to a close. “I’m sure that the board will address this later,” said Murphy.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.