Editor’s Note: Mooresville Commissioner Tommy DeWeese made the following comments during Monday’s board meeting.
BY TOMMY DEWEESE
I just completed my first year as a commissioner and asked if I could relate some of the things I have learned about the position. It has been an honor to serve the people of Mooresville.
When I was elected, I thought I had studied and learned what a commissioner’s role is. I had barely scratched the surface. In North Carolina, towns operate not on their own accord, but under the purview of the State of North Carolina. Beginning with the Town being chartered by the State, pretty much everything the town does is based on State Law. The ordinances we create, the rules we follow and the process we use to create those rules are dictated by the State. Ordinances are either clarifications of state laws or laws we need to follow to meet state laws. We operate therefore at the convenience and discretion of the State. For example, just as they have given us our powers to zone or rezone land use, they can just as easily take those powers away. There have been laws introduced by the State Legislature to do just that. There have also been laws introduced that would limit our ability to annex and even to force us to extend utility services to nearby county residents at the same price we charge residents without discretion of cost or impact on the town.
So, the commissioners are not elected to rule or to just serve the town, but rather elected to serve as intermediaries between the State and the residents of Mooresville. As such, we have a responsibility to carry out the actions of governance in accordance with the laws of the State of North Carolina and to follow the various statutes the State has enacted. This brings us to the central part of our responsibility: To serve the citizens of Mooresville, to a degree the citizens of Iredell County and to serve the citizens of North Carolina by following a basic premise of the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions, the “Rule of Law.”
The Rule of Law requires us to ensure all laws are equitably applied to all citizens. This means the popularity or position of an individual or business does not affect how we apply or follow the laws. No one is above or immune to these laws. Sometimes our citizens may feel the laws do not apply to a particular entity, but they apply to everyone equally. Should the town fail to apply them in this fashion, the town should certainly be called out for it. We sometimes are accused of being harsh simply because we are following the rule of law and enforcing it equally.
I have also found being a commissioner to be somewhat of a thankless job. While many people come up to me and thank me for what I do, many people attack the Town and its elected officials for being corrupt, uncaring, and not listening to what the people want. Most of these people do this through social media or other public media forums. I try to read as many of these to see just what is being said. First, I was surprised by how many vocal detractors are not Mooresville residents. My second observation is that many of the most vocal of these opponents do not attend Board Meetings or other opportunities to learn what the Board is doing or why decisions are made. My observation is all commissioners on the Board listen to the community and understand their position. It is the age-old issue that every decision is not going to please every person. Just because a decision did not please everyone does not mean everyone was not heard.
While all the members of this Board may not always agree on issues, they do all agree their responsibility is to be responsive to the citizens of Mooresville and to promote the businesses operating in Mooresville. I have been impressed with the number of citizen advisory groups that have been formed by the Board to involve the citizens with the operation of the Town and its decision making.
I was also surprised to discover our limited jurisdiction for controlling the most contentious issue we face — traffic. Mooresville is both blessed and cursed as a crossroads for the area surrounding us. Highways 150, 152, 153, 21, 115 and 3 all crisscross throughout our town. Add a railroad going through the middle of Mooresville and you have the formula for traffic problems. I was surprised Mooresville has not only no control over these roads, but also does not have control over the traffic lights, even those in downtown. I was one of the many complainers about the traffic here, especially on 150. I dug in and researched why we had such massive traffic problems. I looked at the intersection of Perth Road and Highway 150, perhaps one of the worse in the Town and this is what I discovered. 65,000 cars go through that intersection every day. 40,000 of those cars are from west of the intersection going to and from Lincoln and Catawba counties. Another 7,000 of those cars are to and from the Troutman and in between areas. I am not sure how many of the remaining 18,000 cars are from Mooresville, but my experience is most people from Mooresville will avoid that area like the plague.
The growth in Mooresville is not the only problem here. The overall growth of all of North Carolina is the real problem here. We are not alone in creating this problem, but we seem to be alone in getting blamed for it. Mooresville’s biggest contribution to this problem was creating places to shop and to work.
So, to complete my review of my first year I would like to complement the Town staff and the members of this Board. The Town is fortunate to have so many dedicated and conscientious employees who every day tirelessly try and ensure the Town operates in a public friendly way. I also have been impressed with the dedication and conviction of the members of the Board. They worry over every detail that comes before them and all hope to better the Town. By the way, for those that say the Board is only in it for the money, let me tell you, not many people today would be willing to work as hard as they do for three or four dollars per hour.
I would like to take this opportunity to also thank Mayor Atkins for his years of service to the Town of Mooresville. What many people do not get to see is his unwavering dedication and effort to get Federal and State support for our town. He has successfully gotten millions of dollars of support for Mooresville on various projects. I was fortunate to see him operate on the Hill in D.C. and saw firsthand both his dedication and his ability to persuade Legislatures on supporting our town.
Thanks to all of you for listening as I recounted what I learned in my first year as a commissioner. I will do my best to continue learning and growing so I can help the citizens of our community at the level they deserve.
Tommy DeWeese represents Ward 3 on the Mooresville Town Board of Commissioners.