The rings of the people

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Real estate developer Russell Harper was wrong to publicly call out two members of the Farmville Town Council during the board’s monthly meeting last week.

He was also wrong — on many levels — to say that council members should “kiss the ring” of Town Manager Gerald Spates.

Harper’s Farmville Associates LLC wants to build a 120-unit apartment complex between Walmart and the Greens South subdivision, with a potential entrance off South Main Street south of Milnwood Road. The project requires a conditional use permit from the town council.

Harper called out At-Large Councilmen Tommy Pariet and Dan Dwyer — two good and decent public servants — for allegedly sharing incorrect information regarding the apartments.

He said that a wildlife camera had filmed Pairet on the Mottley Lake property that Harper recently purchased from the town, and he questioned Pairet’s presence on the property.

During an interview Friday with The Herald, Harper didn’t elaborate on those comments.

“We’ve been doing work here since 1990,” he said at last Wednesday’s council meeting. “We really like Farmville … and I have not experienced in this community what I have experienced over the last four months … We’ve never experienced this in this town. This is new, it’s unique, it’s unfortunate.”

We appreciate Harper’s investments in Farmville over the years. Those investments have created jobs and fattened town and county tax bases. However, we, like a lot of Farmvillians, do not appreciate his tactics during the council meeting. They are not conducive to a factual, unemotional resolution of a serious question before the town council.

During the Wednesday meeting, Harper said he’d heard talk that he and Spates were “in cahoots.”

“This man has never allowed me to buy him a Coca-Cola or a coffee … Y’all ought to kiss his ring,” Harper told council members.

Harper got it wrong.

The council, which makes decisions on behalf of the people, hired Spates to work for the town. The good people of Farmville hired, through elections, members of the town council. The council works for the people. Not for Gerry Spates. And certainly not for Russell Harper.

If there’s any ring-kissing to done in Farmville, it should be council members kissing the rings of the citizens.