Column – Gratitude for Bartlett’s helpful approach
I think it was my second day on the job here with The Farmville Herald that I covered my first government meeting ever. It was a Cumberland County Board of Supervisors meeting, and it involved a public hearing about a tax increase. It was a baptism by fire into the world of local government reporting.
People filled the seats, lined the walls and schoolchildren sat on the floor near me in the courthouse room for the three-hour-long hearing that featured many speakers and testy exchanges. The board chairman even called for one or two members of the public to be escorted out by the sheriff.
In some ways, that story was simple enough — citizens had strong opinions about the proposed tax hike.
As I continued on that beat and attended more meetings, I was exposed to more and more details of governance that were hard to sort out and learn for a beginner like myself.
I gained a better understanding of these details as I went along, but the difficulties were still a major concern to me as I later took on the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors’ beat.
However, one thing that helped allay my concern to a great degree was the outstanding resource of the board packet summaries that former County Administrator Wade Bartlett would include with most agenda items for board meetings.
These summaries would often boil down complex issues to their core elements.
In many instances, these breakdowns would serve as a script that Bartlett would read from to the board during meetings. He would occasionally add to or further summarize some of these details as he deemed appropriate.
As a reporter, I found Bartlett’s overall approach enormously helpful. It helped bring clarity to so many issues that would otherwise have come across as arcane.
Sometimes the simple mention of a proper name or an abbreviated version of a proper name can be enough to confuse the listener, and this confusion is eliminated when the name appears in print in a board packet summary.
Acting County Administrator Sarah Elam Puckett has taken a similar approach to forming the board packet as Bartlett. I sincerely hope the incoming full-time county administrator will do something quite similar.
I would like to thank Bartlett for his diligent, detailed and well-prepared approach that was helpful not only to this reporter and the people reading his articles but also to the citizens trying to research and follow local government developments on their own.
TITUS MOHLER is the sports editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Titus.Mohler@ FarmvilleHerald.com.