I’ve been milling around for a few weeks now, no longer new but not exactly a fixture at the local diner, and as I sat down to write this column, I have to admit I was slightly torn as to what to do. I have a feeling what I am about to say may strike a chord with a few people but I have a feeling it won’t be a new chord and I certainly won’t be the first to strike it.
As my time here nears a solid month, I’ve talked to more residents and business owners in this community than I could possibly count. There’s this one resonant message I keep receiving when I ask questions about Pickens County and this community, questions carefully formulated to give me a feel for the political, economic, and civic fabrics of the tapestry that is our home. And what I’m hearing perplexes me.
Now for a slight disclaimer on my part, just to make sure there’s no confusion. In no way am I disparaging any member of or party to the school board in Pickens County. In my years as not only a writer or member of the media, but as a member of the human race, I’ve relied on less than 50 percent of what I’m told and leave the rest up to what I see for myself, whether it’s firsthand or in the answers I find.
So at this point I personally haven’t formulated any opinion whatsoever. Having said that …
This certainly isn’t my first rodeo as a member of the media and in whatever community I happened to be participating in at one time or another, the hot button topic was almost exclusively local government.
This has been almost without exception my professional experience, so imagine my surprise when the answer I keep getting is that the local school board is the arm of local government creating the most talk in the community.
I attended my first Pickens County Council meeting this week only to discover the school board was a topic of discussion during open forum. For those of you unfamiliar with what open forum is, it’s a designated time slot on the agenda when members of the community can sign up and speak on issues of concern to them.
Based on comments made that evening, the preoccupation with what was going on at a board meeting simultaneously spilled over into the county’s monthly meeting.
At this point I need to stress how unsettling it is to find a community, in the discussions I have held to this point, so close in their views about a political body, and that viewpoint being so negative and so widespread.
I realize I’m getting in on the game after the opening tip and have some catching up to do, but I can’t help but ask myself how it’s possible for a board that should be politically unmotivated to become so controversial.
And this isn’t a situation where the folks I’ve had these conversations with are all from the same social strata or within the same socio-economic group. If that were the case, I’d be writing about something else altogether.
Since I took on this role as a staff writer in the last month, my exposure to Pickens County’s school board has appeared to be one without a clear direction, torn by the resignation of its chair in the midst of a hot debate over property sales, and even some animosity as some members turned to the media to air their dissatisfaction.
When I began here in Pickens County, I was prepared for other forms and forums of conflict within the politics of local government. It’s unavoidable and always there like the sun every morning. This wasn’t the eventuality I expected, and as a journalist I’ll keep an open mind, always looking for the truth, just as I said I would.
Finally, after we ask all the questions and find all the answers, considering the mission of this group of elected officials, I hope there’s a pleasant surprise wrapped up like an early birthday present, just sunshine and smiles complete with a free hot lunch.
In the end, I sincerely hope the picture that’s been painted thus far is less than half right, as I always suspect until I see otherwise.
D. C. Moody is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.