On Aug. 28, Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner was interviewed by Jeff Goldberg (Goldy), the morning radio host on WFNC 640AM. It was a follow up interview to Hope Mills Commissioners Meg Larson and Mike Mitchell’s discussion with Goldy on Aug. 23 about the status of the Lone Survivor Foundation’s attempt to build a $1.5 million facility in Hope Mills to treat veterans suffering from PSTD and other war related disorders.
In contrast to Larson and Mitchell’s stammering through their interview, interrupting one another and faltering midsentence, Warner came across as confident, articulate and knowledgeable about the Lone Survivor project. She was remarkably polite and diplomatic. She was the near perfect example of grace under fire. Even when she was prodded to the more salacious side of the issue, Warner maintained confident and credible control of the conversation.
Commissioners Larson and Mitchell have pushed a biased and one-sided version of the LSF situation since mid-July, ignoring public sentiment and insisting that the land this nonprofit organization would like to purchase – or lease – from the town is not for sale, and that it’s needed for a future potential multipurpose reservoir.
Warner effectively debunked these notions with facts and statistics. She also dismissed allegations of possible collusion and conflicts of interest that arose due to the fact that her son, Teddy Warner, is employed as the director of business development for the Fayetteville. Cumberland Economic Development Corporation. The FCEDC’s mission is to recruit businesses, organizations and institutions that contribute to the economic development of all cities and towns within Cumberland County, including Hope Mills. Warner reminded Goldy that as mayor, she doesn’t even have a vote in the matter and is in no way in a position to profit financially from the LSF partnership.
And, while some commissioners on the board were offended because they thought they were being kept in the dark about the LSF project, Warner reassured everyone that all proper local government protocols were followed. And, as the mayor of Hope Mills, Warner is the head of the board of commissioners and serves as the leading ambassador for the town. In this position of leadership, she is responsible for looking after the best interests of the town and all its residents.
Warner pointed out that inquiries of this nature are a typical occurrence. Hope Mills is frequently approached by individuals, businesses and organizations wanting to partner with the town. All inquiries are properly vetted by the town manager and then channeled to the relevant person or department. Warner noted the necessity of developing strong partnerships with large-scale businesses, organizations and institutions when trying to successfully develop and grow a community. Referencing Hope Mills’ limited financial resources, she made the point that partnerships with organizations like the LSF allow Hope Mills to do considerably more with its assets than the town could afford to do otherwise. In this case, the LSF is offering to develop Hope Mills land for recreational use at the foundation’s own expense, then lease or sell the land back to Hope Mills should the town need it in the future – a $1.5 million win-win-win scenario, you would think.
While there is no logical downside to this partnership, there could be considerable long-term consequences for the town
if the board doesn’t yield to public sentiment and reconsider its position on the LSF proposal. Future economic development opportunities for the town would be difficult if not impossible to attract once the business development community learns that Hope Mills is illogically difficult to work with. After all, the LSF is a well-respected and well-funded organization that the FCEDC brought forth in good faith to the town of Hope Mills. It is an amazing opportunity for the town to serve the community, its residents, Fort Bragg and all the military veterans of Cumberland County and the nation.
These are all factors that neither Commissioner Mitchell nor Larson have taken into consideration. It makes you wonder what their real motivation is for their objection to the LSF project. One thing is for sure, it does not concern any of the people mentioned above who stand to benefit from this project.
Check out page 25 of this issue for a play-by-play rebuttal by Elizabeth Blevins of Goldy’s Aug. 23 interview with Commissioners Larson and Mitchell.
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Photo: Jackie Warner