His take on McLemore

Published 12:14 pm Saturday, July 31, 2010

I don’t cast a vote in the opinion polls at www.thetidewaternews.com, the results of which we publish on the front page of the print edition.

Had I done so in the recent poll on Franklin City Councilman Greg McLemore, I’d have lobbied the webmaster for a fifth choice: All of the above.

My case for each of the ballot choices:

Like his spunk. I really do.

Many people question McLemore’s motives for public service. Not me. In several one-on-one conversations with the Ward 3 councilman during his election bid and since, I have found him to be sincere and passionate about making Franklin a better city. He sees himself as a champion of the common man and a thorn in the side of the status quo.

In that sense, McLemore, among the current group of elected leaders, might best represent the mood of the city’s electorate. In two consecutive election cycles, voters from all walks of life have said that city government needs to change. McLemore is doing his darnedest to deliver.

Loose cannon. McLemore too often lets his enthusiasm gets the best of him. He is quick to speak and act before he thinks. That’s dangerous. His shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later style threatens not only to undermine his own agenda but to be a poor reflection on the community he serves. In a worst-case scenario, he could get himself or the city sued.

In over his head. This columnist of average intellect would never dare question another’s intelligence. Setting public policy for a city of 8,000 people is not rocket science. McLemore’s problem isn’t brainpower but rather a fundamental naivety about the political arena.

Every new elected official learns that running for office is a lot easier than governing. Franklin Councilmen Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess, who, like McLemore, rode the city’s anti-incumbent sentiment into office two years ago, can attest.

McLemore is struggling mightily with the reality that one vote on a seven-member policymaking board is of itself meaningless. Even the 2-to-1 mandate for change that Ward 3 voters gave McLemore in his May victory over incumbent Councilwoman Rosa Lawrence is irrelevant unless he can convince at least three council colleagues that an idea is worthy of adoption.

When seeking to build consensus, honey works better than vinegar, an olive branch better than a 2-x-4. Ward 6 Councilman Don Blythe, who also ran on an anti-status quo platform, seems to get it. McLemore, at least to date, hasn’t.

Too soon to say. The verdict on McLemore is at least a couple of years away. He can still be successful if he thumps the chip off his shoulder and thickens his skin.

The political arena is rough-and-tumble. As one who occasionally takes controversial positions on community affairs, I learned long ago that many will disagree with me. Most do so respectfully. A few dislike me personally as a result of what I write. I accept that reality and guard against reciprocal grudges.

McLemore, who has blistered his council colleagues at every turn during and since his election campaign, seems surprised that he has gotten a chilly reception from those who he has targeted. Even before he had attended his first council meeting, he made the over-the-top statement on this page that the other council members would rather die than accept his input.

McLemore must come to understand the power of his words. If he learns the value of tact and diplomacy — that how you say something is as important as what you say in the public arena — he will be an effective city councilman. If he doesn’t learn that lesson quickly, he will remain ineffective.

My opinion on Greg McLemore? A choice that the poll respondents didn’t have: A resounding “all of the above.”