Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Town Council Grudge Match

Bluffton Today column October 28, 2009

Why is it that in high school whenever there was a fight in the halls everyone would gather in
close and chant “fight, fight, fight”?

What is so entertaining about two people going head-to-head verbally or non-verbally that forces us to stop, watch, and listen?

Does reveling in the embarrassment of others make us feel better about ourselves?

Where am I going with this, you may ask?

Well, to an outsider looking in, Councilmen Charlie Wetmore and Fred Hamilton are bitter rivals. They talk at each other, not with each other. There are stare-downs and pare-downs, as in "we’ve heard enough from you, let’s move on.” We witness verbal jabs and non-verbal stabs.

In fact, sometimes the show they put on is almost entertaining enough to make you want to return to another council meeting.

So, despite the fact that their barb-exchanging, chest-puffing, finger-point behavior is indeed entertaining to me, I thought it was also worthy of some further investigation. So, I called them both to uncover the real story behind the perceived tenuous relationship.

And it appears that things aren’t always as they seem.

Fred says, “I don’t go along, to get along”. He’ll admit that many times he and Charlie don’t always see things the same way, but he respect Charlie and believes that Charlie has the best interest of the town in mind. Further, he appreciates the fact that the council is diverse, in background, approach and communication style. “Everyone is different, but I am very comfortable with the fact that we are a working council. We make decisions. We disagree. We forgive. We forget. We move on.” (I think that means they “get ‘er done”!)

Charlie was equally as diplomatic (note: I actually believe both of them) and says that he would consider him and Fred friends who have simply agreed to disagree, “we are both passionate about the cause, and you can’t get upset with someone who is passionate.” But, Charlie admits that every once and awhile they both need to be reminded not to cut each other off. Charlie also says, “The public doesn’t see that we talk before and after each meeting. And, just like any relationship, it’s not always ideal, but we make up in the end.”

So, it sounds like they have mutual respect for each other even when they are both being a P in the A.

Damn! I was so hoping for a Town Council Grudge Match.

Now entering the ring …

Chesty Charlie, frocked in flip flops, khaki shorts, and a wrinkled golf shirt and weighing in at 27% sarcasm, 32% Yankee and 41% I don’t care what you think.

And, his opponent … Fearless Fred dressed in spit-shined shoes, suit, tie and handkerchief and weighing in at 54% local, 29% pointed eye contact and 17% frustration.

Let’s. Get. Ready. To. Rumble.

Read the column online