The new Chatham Co. Board of Commissioners got off to slightly rocky start at their first meeting of 2013.
New county chairman Al Scott and three other brand new commissioners, Tony Center, Yusuf Shabbaz and Lori Brady, were welcomed to county politics with some good old-fashioned bad blood over a vote on pay raises at the end of 2012.
What was expected to be a routine vote on who would hold special positions on the commission, and controversy free, took a quick turn.
Dean Kicklighter, named once again commission vice chairman after a unanimous vote, took issue with chairman pro-tem nominee Helen Stone publicly over what he said was an understood yes vote for county commissioner pay raises behind closed doors, but a public no during the actual vote.
"Everyone chose to vote for it," Kicklighter said during Friday morning's meeting. "Commissioner Stone voted against it to look good to her constituents."
Kicklighter told WTOC that Stone was involved in getting the pay raise proposal to the table, the first raise for commissioners since 2001. They still passed the raises in a 7 to 2 vote. Former commissioner David Gellatly had stated his opposition to the raises from the beginning.
However, Kicklighter said the swerve by Stone made him not trust her anymore.
"I live by the policy that I'll vote whatever necessary to be able to sleep at night, and I truly sincerely believe a leader oughtta be able to be trusted," he said.
"Let me make myself clear. I was never supportive of the raises once the total amount was solidified," Stone said, adding she supported the original scale of the raises until she learned the numbers were final and not what she could accept.
Kicklighter was the lone vote against Stone becoming chairman pro-tem and says he made his point, and he accepts her explanation but she will have to earn his trust back.
New Chatham Co. Commission Chairman Al Scott took it all in, no stranger to political warfare after years in local and state government. He says the heated and passionate disagreements will continue as they tackle more important issues.
"We have a new jail and issues there to discuss, we have a pet owner ordinance which is already causing heated discussion so the contentiousness will continue, I am sure," Scott told WTOC. "It's just the way it is."