Garland seeks total support
Graham County Manager Becky Garland asked for, and received, a vote of confidence from her bosses of six months Friday.
“The honeymoon is officially over,” began a prepared statement Garland read to the Graham County Board of Commissioners after it approved the 2017-‘18 budget. The two-page statement concluded: “So my question tonight in this forum is whether I truly have the full board support in this endeavor. I did not take this role lightly and I do not feel that you did either. I hope that you feel the same way that I feel.”
One by one, each commissioner reaffirmed their commitment to Garland, whom they appointed after county manger Mike Edwards resigned.
Connie Orr: “I’ve never since I’ve been county commissioner seen the leadership we have through you in the county right now. And I’m very grateful for it. And I know it isn’t easy and it isn’t painless and I thank you so much.”
Chairman Keith Eller: “I support you, but I’d like to say also that you have more power than anyone in the county. You’re the county manager. What you say goes. It takes three of us to tell you what to do.”
Raymond Williams: “I support you 150 percent.”
Jacob Nelms: “I’ll echo that. You’ve got my support.”
Dale Wiggins: “Me too. I do appreciate everything you do.”
Following the meeting, Orr expounded on her support of Garland: “We’re in a good position as far as leadership in our county manager’s office right now. As I said, I’ve never seen what we have right now. And it feels positive, it feels promising, it feels like we’ve made some leaps and bounds in progress ... We had three paid people that had the title of county manager but we never have had a county manager until Becky took the reigns.”
The vote of confidence came after Garland enumerated four areas of concern:
* “I still do not feel I have the full support of the board. The rumor mill continues to flourish and I receive reports from the grapevine that complaints about me by commissioners are circulating, or that doubt is being cast about my ability to carry out the role.”
* “While I try to be responsive to and appreciate all the things you bring me in the course of a day, it is difficult with our dynamics for me not to jump and run to attend to a directive from one commissioner .... I want to be responsive, but each commissioner is one of five .... I am not being disrespectful when I say that I will place it on the agenda for the next meeting so that the entire board can consider the matter.”
* “I have worked hard for the past six months to help staff understand that I am credible and I have treated them all as equally as humanly possible ... Now it is time to help them see that we mean business from the discipline perspective. This is why it is so vital that commissioners not work behind the scene either in appearance or fact to undermine the process.”
* “The board needs to set the tone for the county. Because we have commissioners who are also employees, they MUST
set the examples as leaders in their work ethic and attitude toward the changes ... In addition, when I schedule a staff meeting that is mandatory, it is vital that commissioners who are also department managers attend these meetings.”
Two of the five commissioners are county employees – Eller, who is fire chief, and Nelms, who is assistant building and fire inspector.
Garland said that she sought the vote of confidence because, “We have made some small progress in our employee morale and culture ... Things will get worse with staff before they get better ... Now it is time to help them [staff] see that we mean business from the discipline perspective.”
“The tail is getting ready to stop wagging the dog. You will hear complaints as I realign processes, as we continue to push on following policy, and, if necessary, scheduling in departments. You will hear complaints because I am picking on folks. We must all stand firm. If my credibility gets undermined then there is no path forward. We either are committing to create a solid culture of good work ethic and accountability or things can rock on as they have.”
Before the meeting concluded, Garland praised her bosses: “I want to say, in all honesty, I am truly grateful for my board. I think we have one of the very best boards, if not in western North Carolina than in the entire state because you truly care what happens in this county.”