Horse, then cart
Talmege Reeves, former director of the county department of economic development, is enjoying retirement on Maryland's Eastern Shore, shed of Fauquier County and the frustrations of a job for which he not only was not given direction, but was, we believe, also thwarted at many a turn by a county government that, more often than not, gave lip service to the idea of developing the local economy, but not much else.
If being crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then Fauquier should check itself in for a mental evaluation.
The supervisors, against the advice of their own Business Advisory Council, are determined to hire a new economic development director, though there is apparently no clearer idea of what this person is supposed to do once he or she sets up office on Culpeper Street than it was when Mr. Reeves was hired.
The BAC met again yesterday morning in its first gathering since the supervisors chose to ignore its recommendation. The panel spent a good part of an hour and 45-minute session asking itself where it goes from here.
One member suggested that the supervisors need to provide instruction and need to point the committee in a specific direction. Another suggested the exact opposite approach is more appropriate, that taking cues from the board takes us as a community from Point A back to Point A, not forward to Point B.
What did emerge from the session was a consensus that the BAC, which is comprised of people prominent in business and in leadership roles in business organizations in Fauquier, will request of board Chairman Holder Trumbo and County Administrator Paul McCulla that it, or some of its members, be part of at least an initial interview with finalists for the job.
We think that is an excellent idea, and urge the board chairman and administrator to give it a thumbs up.
Cedar Run District Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn attends these meetings. Mr. Sherbeyn has always struck us as a man who is very comfortable in his own skin, and that's a trait that served him well on Thursday morning.
There were pointed exchanges between Mr. Sherbeyn and others on the committee, while he was there and continuing after he left for another meeting. Many of the barbs, ultimately, had to do with leadership.
Mr. Sherbeyn insists that he was elected last year because of his pledge to southern Fauquier voters to carry their views to the board. If they want something – and the something seems to be economic development, relatively undefined – then that is what he will advocate. To his credit, he has stuck to that pledge.
Business leaders on the committee, however, are trying to push a more nuanced view, that elected officials need to understand that their constituents' views are often a little more short-sighted and myopic than is good for the entire community.
That, we believe, is a little closer to the real spirit of our democracy.
We suspect that we are better served by electing people to lead us, not just channel us. They have advantages that most of us simply do not have, including a variety of opposing views that they are obliged to entertain, access to an informed staff, and greater exposure to the intelligence and skills that their peers bring to the discussion.
In terms of leadership, what the county ought to be and ought to become, we believe, is something more than the collection of whatever commercial, industrial and residential developments decide that this looks like a good place to settle down.
We're not at all sure that it makes since to hire an economic development director until the full board is in absolute agreement that Fauquier will remain a wonderful place to live only by design, not by happenstance.