Judge exec candidate seems to view all officials as corrupt, overpaid, irresponsible

Nelson County Gazette

Friday, Oct. 5, 2018 — After sitting on the sidelines and not voicing an opinion, I feel compelled to speak out about what I can only say are the mischaracterizations being spread by one of the candidates running for Nelson County judge executive.

I have no doubt of Republican candidate Don Thrasher’s desire to serve; what I find objectionable are the some of the methods and statements he makes to set himself apart from the other candidates in the judge executive race.

For months now, I have personally heard Mr. Thrasher criticize elected officials and volunteers who serve as members and leaders of nearly every board, committee, and local government agency in Nelson County. To hear it from Thrasher, everyone who serves in one of these positions is either incompetent, overpaid, or corrupt — or all three.

While he’s free to make critical comments as part of his campaign, I find that these painted-with-a-broad-brush statements are at times far from the truth — even taking into consideration the fact that the truth often suffers at the hands of politicians seeking elected office. It may be justified as “politics as usual,” but its unfortunate because I’m seeing it damage the community and erode the public’s trust in established and proven processes.

Examples of Thrasher’s campaign playing loose with the facts can be found in his latest campaign video that asks the question “Does Big Money Control Nelson County?”

The video begins by recounting some of the events surrounding the Woodlawn Springs zoning change that was recommended by the planning commission and later approved by Nelson Fiscal Court.

The video claims that the Woodlawn Springs zoning change was “quickly approved.” At best, that’s a misleading statement, given the fact that the approval process — including a well-attended four-hour public hearing — spanned four months, from December 2017 to March 2018.

Thrasher’s video also includes a claim the joint ethics board “quickly terminated” an ethics complaint against planning commission member Mark Mathis “without investigation.”

From my perspective, neither of those claims hold water.

The joint ethics board met March 27, 2018, to review the ethics complaint filed March 2 against Mathis by Woodlawn Springs resident Pete Trzop.

That meeting — captured by the Nelson County Gazette on video available here — offered Mathis an opportunity to review Trzop’s allegations. To his credit, Mathis went to great lengths to an answer each allegation in the complaint.

Trzop did not attend the meeting, but Thrasher did.

The ethics board did not — as the video claims — make an inappropriately “quick” decision on the complaint. The board was short one member, so it delayed its decision until the following month. At that time — and after a review of Mathis’ answers to Trzop’s complaint — it voted unanimously to terminate the review of Trzop’s ethics complaint.

You may disagree with the board’s decision, but the board did its job. Period.

Thrasher has also been a frequent critic of the joint city-county planning commission and its director. This isn’t a new phenomenon; these complaints seems to surface when county elections come around every four years. That’s just a fact of politics in Nelson County. You can be critical of the commission’s work, but it isn’t helpful when some of those complaints aren’t based on facts.

For example, Mr. Thrasher recently complained on social media that the planning director was overpaid; in his comment, he incorrectly stated the director’s annual salary.

And as far as his criticism of the fiscal management of the planning commission office goes, perhaps Thrasher hasn’t lived in Nelson County long enough — or didn’t ask the right questions — to know that the planning office cut its own schedule to 4 days a week to reduce expenses during the recession. Or that in the 15 years the director has led the planning office, she has limited the growth of the office’s expenses to approximately one percent a year. The office also consolidated two positions into one over the years as well.

To his credit, Thrasher has tried to do his homework in the form of making numerous Open Records Requests with local government and related agencies. Open Records Requests produce valuable information; however, the requests cannot necessarily provide the context and history behind the decisions and the reasoning related to those documents. The records themselves do not always paint a complete picture.

With 32 days left before the election on Nov. 6th, my suggestion for Mr. Thrasher is simple: Reboot the focus of your campaign.

If you continue on a course of being critical of local offices, agencies, boards and people — many of whom you have little control over if elected judge executive — you will lose votes from both parties.

Give voters more than usual, tired campaign rhetoric and scare tactics; tell us specifics on what you will do differently as judge executive. What specific experience from your days as an entrepreneur will translate as valuable experience as judge executive?

As the election nears, voters want specifics, not more criticism of how bad life is here in Nelson County. The truth I see is that for the most part, our elected officials do a good job serving our community. We all have a common goal of improving our community and its quality of life.

And I may be out-of-place to make this suggestion, but I think it would be worthwhile for Thrasher to (again) publicly acknowledge his role in the 2003 Paris Hilton sex tape scandal, the subsequent lawsuits, and let voters know the lessons he learned from that experience.

For what its worth, that’s the view from my hill overlooking Cox’s Creek.


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