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Terrible business / April 30, 2015

Dear Viewpoint:

On of the most famous cartoons of the 19th century was a depiction of the great German foreign minister Prince Otto von Bismarck descending the side mounted gangplank of a freighter to the deck of a pilot boat, with the young, impetuous Kaiser Wilhelm II watching from the ship’s rail. Titled “Dropping the Pilot,” it implied that discharging Bismarck, who knew thoroughly the tangled alliances that kept the peace in Europe and was the only person with experience enough to maintain the continent’s even keel, was a big mistake. Indeed it was, and it may have destroyed any chance that the chain reaction leading to World War I could have been avoided.

Now the publication of a no confidence vote by four of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors has predictively led to the resignation of Jeremy Carroll, the board’s attorney and a recognized expert in the law of county and municipal government in Virginia. The absence of a voting majority on the board means appointment of a replacement (assuming a qualified lawyer would want to step into this fire) will probably be a long time coming. One must assume that one of the four, attorney Bryant Claiborne, must have appreciated the implications of their action. We have lost our pilot and the ship is foundering in shoal water.

The late attorney James E. Edmunds III, who served on the Board of Supervisors for many years and was the most selfless of public servants, used to stress the need for “high minded people” to engage themselves in civic endeavors. “High minded people” was his euphemism for those who were intelligent, educated in the sense that they knew how the wider world works and had a sense of proportion, were civil enough to familiarize themselves with the issues and needs of disputing parties and avoid senseless conflict, and, above all, had the foresight to know what was best for the future of Halifax County. If only there were more people like him.

This terrible business should be ended by the Board of Supervisors right away. It has done more damage to the reputation of this county since the School Board crisis of the late 1980s, and makes us look like an incestuous, xenophobic nest of snakes.

John E. Greenbacker Jr.
South Boston

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