The Moore County community must face up to the need to address two key back-to-back resignations that were announced just before the holidays.

Important leadership positions have been vacated by experienced people who have decided to move on and up in their chosen career paths. The timing is terrible for Moore County, coming just before this year’s showcase golf championships, but reaction from all quarters must be immediate.

Dr. Aaron Spence will leave the Moore County Schools in June to take charge of Virginia Beach City (Va.) Public Schools. The move back to an urban system that is three times larger than Moore County’s, and one with racial difficulties, will be a challenge for this dedicated educator.

While Spence has put a smiley face on his leaving, those who observe events up close know about the cross-currents on the Board of Education. They take note of serious facilities needs within the system, admire Spence’s focused, enlightened management style, and worry about where the fortitude will come to oppose penny-pinching, status-quo-focused county commissioners.

Our community took a second hit when the Cabarrus Regional Chamber picked off the services of Patrick Coughlin, whose success at the Moore County Chamber of Commerce is well-known on a national level.

With vision beyond his years, the youthful Coughlin is a go-to guy, and I personally enjoyed his willingness to talk about any idea that might impact his goal of serving both his membership and our community.

Coughlin’s authority in his new position will include economic development — which, in some minds, is a better operating model than the structure currently in use in Moore County. Certain longtime Moore County insiders believe strongly that the combined model would not work here in the Sandhills. Still, we should take a look.

Good management dictates that it would be a mistake not to do the structural review. Input should come from many quarters, from old-timers and new arrivals, from the users and the planners and from the people. Final decision-makers might be surprised with the value of the effort. Business and education are major components of any quality of life measurement, and conditions change each and every day.

Already the “boo birds” have taken potshots at my public position that make-do managers will produce substandard results. Facts on the ground, however, include the shabby condition of public buildings including our schools, the unsafe courthouse, and a scattered county office system looking to relocate under one roof.

Can we use the recruiting efforts to update public and private operating techniques? Absolutely, starting with the fact that the root cause is clearly a lack of realistic cumulative planning by successive boards of commissioners whose definition of long-term is one election cycle.

Since the two organizations cannot remain leaderless for an extended period, the recruiting process has to be put on the agenda now, to be initiated and executed during a realistic time frame that could run through the twin tournaments.

The process needs broad-based input since it is likely the newcomers will be called for service on other interconnected leadership boards that require complementary policies. Both job descriptions must be updated to reflect current needs.

The work product must be shared by the search committees for both the schools and the Chamber so that any candidate will be made aware of the scope of authority that is inherent with the projected responsibility.

The process to review and update existing job descriptions, to seek out qualified search organizations, to plan a recruitment effort, to reach out to the applicant pool, to receive applicant resumes, to perform first-level interviews, is by definition very time-consuming. But the time and effort will produce a foundation for growth, will import expertise, will access the candidates’ existing network of contacts, and will continue with minimum interruption the programs that impact the quality of life in Moore County.

A flawed approach, in my view, is an isolated study by a small group appointed by the relevant board who want to operate without professional help, utilize crony contacts, seek out a limited pool of applicants, and fail to comprehend the interconnected nature of the job responsibility.

While the departures present a short-run problem, the replacement effort should contain a large component of self-analysis — not just by the school and Chamber boards, but also by our community as a whole.

(1) comment

Chris Smithson

Well-said Walter

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