02 pub penMany residents of Hope Mills are scratching their heads trying to figure out the thought processes and logic behind Mayor Pro tem Mike Mitchell and Commissioners Meg Larson and Jerry Legge’s position on rejecting the Lone Survivor Foundation’s offer to purchase property on Lake Bed #2 for the construction of a $1.5 million military veterans retreat. The retreat would serve local vets and their families by dealing with the numerous physical, emotional and mental injuries caused by the ill effects of combat. 

What are these commissioners thinking? This proposal was rejected without much discussion or debate. More puzzling and even more disturbing to the residents of Hope Mills is that this hasty decision was made without a public hearing that would give the residents an opportunity to voice their opinions on how they felt about the LSF project or the best use of the town’s assets. 

There are so many questions and so few answers as to why this trio of elected officials would be so adamantly against a Hope Mills economic development project that would generate jobs, benefit local military veterans and area businesses and uplift the entire community – especially when Hope Mills is participating in Cumberland County’s Hometown Heroes celebration, and the local Hope Mills Chamber of Commerce is honoring the Lone Survivor Foundation and all local Hope Mills veterans at its annual Chili Cookoff Nov. 10. 

Maybe we can remedy some of this frustration with an explanation. First, Larson and Mitchell don’t get along with each other. Both of them have their sights set on being the next mayor of Hope Mills. However, they bonded together after finding one objective they had in common, and that is to make sure they dismiss, obstruct and eliminate any and all Hope Mills initiatives that may reflect positively on Mayor Jackie Warner. 

In other words, neither of them are going to do anything, say anything or initiate anything that would reflect positively on the mayor – even if it means ignoring the citizens of Hope Mills, stifling economic development, retarding business growth or embarrassing and damaging the reputation of the town. This is why they nixed the LSF project and then concocted the conspiracy theory that the mayor and her son Teddy, who works for the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation, were in collusion on the LSF deal. 

Collusion? And to what end? Wanting to bring economic growth and development to Hope Mills? Attempting to sell virtually useless land for the purpose of providing veterans medical and therapeutic services that could enhance the lives of thousands? 

Unfortunately, Larson and Mitchell will continue to be obstructionists when it comes to anything the mayor could possibly get credit for or anything they feel would further ingratiate her into the hearts and minds of Hope Mills residents. Well, to that I say, “lots of luck!” 

Mayor Jackie Warner loves Hope Mills, and Hope Mills loves her. She and Commissioner Jessie Bellflowers were the only Hope Mills elected officials who took the time to attend Cumberland County’s State of the Community Luncheon hosted by the Greater Fayetteville Chamber last week. They were surrounded by the Hope Mills management team that Warner so graciously recognized. Warner didn’t speak long and barely looked down at her notes as she spoke about Hope Mills with pride and confidence. 

Here is a leader who is honorable, talented, compassionate, empathic and energetic. She has no reason to feel threatened by petty politicians like Mitchell and Larson, who have already exposed the flaws of their character. Legge sits to their left hopelessly waiting for his only relevant directive, which is to raise his hand when he gets their nod. 

The two beacons of hope for the town are allies Commissioner Pat Edwards, who has never wavered from supporting Warner, and Bellflowers. Bellflowers once fell victim to the pressure and intimidation of Larson and Mitchell, but, unlike Legge, has seen the light and has begun to think for himself and express his own opinions without being bullied or influenced by the others. 

At this moment, Hope Mills has one of the most talented and competent leadership teams ever assembled under the direction of Town Manager Melissa Adams. These hardworking folks create a solid foundation upon which to build a bright and prosperous future. We see people coming forward and Hope Mills organizations starting to form to discuss the future of the town and the type of leadership that is capable of achieving goals. This is a good thing. Actually, this is a great thing. We do not see four-year terms for elected officials in Hope Mills’ future, but come 2019, we see not a wave of change but a tsunami of positive leadership coming forth for the betterment and growth of the Hope Mills community. We can’t wait. 

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly. 

Photo: Mayor Jackie Warner

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