Holshouser Fallout Continues
Southern Pines businessman Fred Hobbs said there was nothing sinister behind a letter from five former mayors wanting former Gov. Jim Holshouser to chair a long-range planning advisory committee.
Having the town's five living mayors advocate for Holshouser's appointment was partially Hobbs' idea.
"I had a little something to do with it, yeah," Hobbs said Thursday. "I wish now that I hadn't even suggested it. It obviously hurt him."
Former mayors Norris Hodgkins, Jane Clark, Alex Bowness, Mike Fields and Frank Quis all signed a letter dated Sept. 10 asking the Town Council to name Holshouser as chairman of the committee.
Despite support from current Mayor Mike Haney and Councilman Fred Walden, the other three council members decided Monday to leave Holshouser off the committee entirely, saying that his appointment would make the body too political.
Councilman David Woodruff said that Holshouser was at the top of his list before receiving the letter.
"Jim Holshouser is a man we should all try to emulate," Woodruff said in an interview Thursday. "He's a fine individual. My concern is who initiated this letter and why. We're only trying to do what's best for Southern Pines."
Woodruff had said he thought George Little, a Southern Pines business man and political activist, was behind the move to back Holshouser. Little has denied being involved.
"George didn't have a damn thing to do with it," Hobbs said.
He added that some council members took the letter the wrong way.
"It was not an attempt to be manipulative," Hobbs said. "It would help the council, I thought. It's surprising to me that somebody would think that the five mayors do not have the best interests of the town at heart."
Hobbs said the letter came about because he, Holshouser and some friends were talking, and Holshouser mentioned that he had submitted his name for consideration to be on the committee.
"I thought it was a wonderful idea and that he would be a good chair," Hobbs said.
Hobbs felt that a person of Holshouser's stature shouldn't have to advance his own name for chairman. Holshouser was traveling Thursday and was unavailable for comment. Hobbs said that he agreed to contact all the former mayors and ask them what they thought about suggesting Holshouser as chairman.
"Immediately, to a person, they all agreed," Hobbs said. "They said, 'Where do I sign?'"
Fields said Thursday that he was not surprised that some of the council members reacted the way they did. He said they were being "short-sighted" and "narrow-minded."
"They did Gov. Holshouser an unnecessary slap in the face," Fields said, "if they think his experience and expertise is not needed."
Haney said that when he received the letter from the former mayors, his only reaction was that he wished that appointing Holshouser was his idea. He urged the council to appoint Holshouser. He was unable to persuade Woodruff, Abigail Dowd and Mayor Pro tem Chris Smithson to relent.
Since the decision Monday, Haney said, many residents have told him that they were upset.
"People are appalled," he said. "Then again, the people who come to me, they probably read my position in the paper, so they know how I feel. I don't know how representative that is."
Dowd said several residents told her that Holshouser's inclusion would have made the board too political.
Rhett Morris, who owns the business next to her home, did react negatively, she said. Other than that, she said she has had no reaction, though she said she's been packing for a long trip and hasn't been out in the community much.
Morris said that the council questioned Holshouser's integrity.
"I would question everybody else on that board before I would question him," he said. "It's just not right."
Haney said that he has always liked the fact that council members have different opinions from his. When residents ask him about the council's decisions, he said he likes to be able to explain and defend the other side's thinking. But he said he can't understand this one.
"If you're willing to throw out a good choice because of the perceived way it came to us," he said, "I don't know how to defend that. I think the community was short-changed there."
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story