Jim Baker made his last day on the job as York County manager a memorable one.
Before heading to Chesapeake, Va., to become that city’s chief executive, Baker had a few choice words for the county council that hired him. He told the council to stop acting so “unprofessional,” otherwise York County will project the image that we’re a bunch of “clueless hicks.”
That’s a pretty big stink bomb to toss over your shoulder on the way out the door.
Baker wasn’t referring only to the council’s history of dysfunction – the public squabbles and outbursts, the occasional histrionic soliloquy on topics ranging from taxes to animal abuse. He also mentioned the lack of legislative output that holds the county back from reaching its full potential.
He’s correct to lambast a body that, as a whole has treated the county’s explosive growth during the past decade – most of it here in Fort Mill Township – as some random act of nature as opposed to something that requires cohesive and comprehensive planning.
The council represents a diverse county with districts that can be identified as rural, urban and suburban, which in a way makes it a microcosm of another infamously dysfunctional body. The only difference is, the representatives in the U.S. House are increasingly diverse as individuals. Maybe the fact that most York County Council members are so similar – they are all males and most are middle age or older – is part of the problem. Like in some families, it’s easier to argue with those with whom you can closely identify.
All the petty bickering turns what should be routine business into a laborious climb.
One of our former local representatives, David Bowman, a business owner and one of the most cordial and polite people you’ll ever want to meet, must have been mortified sitting though some of those meetings. He never said the council’s inability to get along and manage the county’s business was the reason he decided not to seek another term, but we have to wonder if it weighed in his decision.
Bowman’s successor, former Fort Mill School Board member Michael Johnson, no doubt knew what he was walking into and perhaps he has the skills to help bring some order while trying to further the best interests of his constituents. We certainly wish him luck.
Were those harsh words Baker spoke Friday? Yes. But someone had to say it.