EDITORIAL: The People Speak -- And Wisely, Too
For the most part, moderation and incumbency carried the day Tuesday in Moore County municipal elections.
Given the general political mood abroad in America, so often marked by anger, single-issue radicalism, noisy divisiveness, conspiracy theories and widespread throw-the-bums out sentiment, the results here might be interpreted as encouraging signs of maturity and level-headedness on the part of local voters.
The various forces that hoped to effect elections by stirring up opposition on particular issues -- the proposed Wagram water purchase in Pinehurst, growth and development in Southern Pines, jail expansion in Carthage -- mostly fell short. The voters, or at least the minority who bothered to go to the polls, appeared more inclined to base their decisions on the qualifications and professionalism of individual candidates.
Strong Choices in Pinehurst
The obvious exception to the incumbency generalization came in Pinehurst, where voters rejected appointed incumbent Jeff Dawson, widely viewed (perhaps unfairly) as the primary architect of the proposed deal for the village to buy the Wagram water-sewer facility.
But anyone looking for an anti-Wagram pattern is foiled by the fact that former County Planning Director Nancy Roy Fiorillo, who is favorably disposed toward the proposal, won handily -- along with former Councilman Doug Lapins, who opposed it. Clearly, voters wisely picked and chose among the candidates based more on individual attributes than on hot-button questions like water plans or Village Green improvement ideas.
Fiorillo brings impressive intelligence, energy and passion to the council, along with a high level of experience and familiarity with local-government issues. Pinehurst will also benefit from having the well-informed, experienced and personable Lapins back on the council. He is not afraid to speak his mind, and it will be interesting to see how he gees and haws with Mayor George Lane, against whom he ran two years ago.
Balance Prevails in Southern Pines
In Southern Pines, voters made exactly the right choices by returning incumbents Mike Fields and Chris Smithson to the Town Council, along with electoral newcomer David McNeill, a longtime former Moore County manager -- who, like Fiorillo in Pinehurst, will have some adjustment to do as he moves from the administrative to the policymaking side. He has a lot of solid qualifications that should serve him well.
Smithson, though sometimes a bit of a lightning rod, has shown a praiseworthy devotion and diligence in getting up to speed on town issues. He has become a virtual expert on the recently unveiled comprehensive long-range plan, something that will serve the town well as the draft of the plan is fleshed out and developed.
Fields, a still-youthful former mayor, combines an engaging, consensus-building personality with a strong sense of civic dedication. Since being appointed to the seat vacated by Abigail Dowd, he has served admirably to help bring together what had been a badly, sometimes bitterly divided council.
As we said in our endorsement of Fields, it would be an unfair oversimplification to characterize his opponent, Marsh Smith, as simply anti-growth. But he did put all his campaign eggs in the basket of pushing for sustainable development and against the recruitment of out-of-town employers, ending up looking a bit one-dimensional. Smith has the town's best interests at heart. But the voters apparently preferred Fields' more balanced approach.
All in all, congratulations to the electorate on a good day's work.
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