Bryan King, the Lakesides Mills’ miller not the lawyer, made time this holiday to discuss the county commissioners’ accomplishments and challenges. King was quick to say that the board works as a collected whole. Every one is kept informed of events and participates with their suggestions and reasoning.
In the participatory style of the RC commissioners, the key is communication. While keenly aware of the public meetings laws, each commissioner still has the avenue to share information and ideas. There is support of each other in this board; something RC has not seen for many years. A group in community always finds a better answer than a lone decision maker. The sum is greater than the parts.
King has served 3 years out of his 4-year term. When he was first elected our interview was about the goals he set during his campaign. Now coming full circle, we met with the experience of the three years of county government.
“What I know today, I wish I knew 3 years ago, ” King offered. “I had my goals and ideas of how a county board should be run. What I didn’t know was how to be a statesman, how to work with other government entities within and outside of our community are lessons to be learned with experience. If I had those skills then, I wonder how much further down the road we would be right now.”
Even as the board learned to work as a team to guide the county, they also achieved many milestones. King cited the following as:
“We have our towns and cities working together for a common goal. We have crossed territorial boundaries and broken down walls between organizations. We have periodic meetings to dialogue with the mayors and managers to discuss our goals. Then we also have one-to-one conversations.”
As an example was the Crain Service Station in Spindale. While Spindale manager and Spindale commissioners took the lead on that, that was a community effort. The County and the legislatures were a part of that. The is the strength we have through cooperation – Raleigh hears a collective loud voice from our community.
Another would be the Cliffside Sanitary District. We are not giving up on that. We’re being proactive in finding a workable solution.
The management solution with our Animal Control Services is one good example of collaborative resolutions. We worked with the rescues, Humane Society, volunteers and employees to determine how best to compassionately handle the animals in our county and to find a home for them.
The relationship between the county schools and their capital needs was one ignored by former boards. According to King, there is now open dialogue, respect for each other’s boundaries, and an understanding that education is key to having a better quality of life in Rutherford County.
While the 1/4 cent tax for school capital needs failed by lack of voter support, King says it is not improbable that it will be put to the voters again. However, he said that in looking at other county models, he “might want to extend that purpose to include local community colleges.”
In looking at the challenges the board faces, King said that this year’s budget will be a tough one. And along with that is fulfilling the needs for the county education system. The school board is asking $4.2 million dollars to get their plans in place for their next buildings.
This is an important challenge as King says “there is a plan out there for Tier Two counties [RC is a tier two county] that are shovel ready to provide State funding. We can elect to fund them now and save the taxpayers money in the future.”
King feels that Raleigh is becoming painfully aware that rural schools have been severely underfunded when compared to the metropolitan areas.
“The opioid epidemic is the biggest crisis coming for us,” King said. “It has affected lives, families, children and even the employment market. We have joined with other counties and with the State Attorney General’s programs to address this opioid issue that crosses all political spectrums and needs to be addressed now.”
King’s goal is that “the next people sitting in these commissioners’ chairs find that we are better positioned to make the next move forward in our future.”