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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Carolina Beach Council Now Extremely Transparent

Editorial: Carolina Beach Council Now Extremely Transparent

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

It's not common to encounter a news story with so much direct commentary from elected leaders regarding their views of each other, decisions and actions of their administration.
That's what happened last week in Carolina Beach. Mayor Ray Rothrock shot off a criticizing email to the Town Council; with the exception of Councilman Lonnie Lashley saying it didn't apply to him.
Rothrock took issue with the Council voting to base Operations employees out of the Police Training Room at Town Hall rather than retail space the Town will lease in a shopping center until they find a permanent home for their Operations/Public Works Department.
They have to relocate that department because they are in violation of a 1970's land lease with the U.S. Army.
The tone of the Mayor's email was direct and conveyed his dislike of decisions made at the Council's October regular meeting. He wasn't at that meeting.
At one point the Mayor switched from disagreement with decisions to direct insults of fellow Council members ranging from questioning their experience to taking a shot at the weight of Councilman Bob Lewis. Ironically, all in an email which opened by questioning his fellow Council member's professionalism.
Rothrock stated, " Steve and Bob, if I had done everything you two express you have experience in, I would have to be 150 years old instead of approaching 75" and commented to Bob Lewis, " If you do all the walking on the beach and playing ball, why don't you weigh 150 pounds instead about 250 pounds."
The funny thing is, the Mayor made comments in his email that he would likely never consider making  in person. Or maybe he would, who knows?
Perhaps he's not fully tuned into modern technology and the fact that emails are public record; they'll find their way into the public eye. Perhaps he didn't anticipate a couple of Council members stepping up and answering him so bluntly. 
Councilmen Steve Shuttleworth and Bob Lewis did just that. They responded, professionally, to the Mayor's emailed comments. 
There's an obvious lesson to be learned by this. Don't get petty with those you disagree with. To quote a former Mayor, you can agree to disagree without being disagreeable.
Another ironic point is, if a citizen standing at the podium during a meeting had made a similar comment to the Mayor, he'd likely shut them down immediately and tell them their time is up or he'd have them removed for personal attacks.
But since he's set the tone, the next time someone insults him directly, he'll have a hard time telling them to do what he says but not what he's done.
And what did his email accomplish? It would have been productive had he stopped just before the insults.
Ultimately Shuttleworth replied with an itemized list of issues he viewed as problems within the administration and in particular the Town Manager.
Bob Lewis responded in a similar manner.
Who can blame them. They Mayor called them out on their professionalism and they had no other option than to lay it all out on the table. The next meeting should be really interesting.
And people can disagree on any given issue. I've had disagreements with Councilman Steve Shuttleworth on several occasions, but it's never personal and I've yet to hear him make a remark about weight, professionalism or experience.
Suggestion is better than criticism. Here's a suggestion, the Council should facilitate calm and productive conversation among council, management and department heads.
Productive leaders strive to foster communication and understanding even when the end result is opposing viewpoints. At least at that point the opposing viewpoints are adequately explored and understood by both sides. I've often told several Council members that a daylong workshop between Council and Department heads is long overdue. Past Council's have benefited from such meetings. It allows everyone to communicate as a group in detail to get a better idea of the big picture that is our "local government". At this point it appears the Council and the administration is lacking that facilitated communication and ultimately are divided by lack of consensus building. Whether that consensus is unified or not, it would result in better understanding of visions, ideals, and philosophies. That's not something you can force upon five people, it's something that has to be cultivated through leadership.
To read last week's report for more details follow this link: "Carolina Beach Mayor Says Council members Unprofessional"