Editorial: Rewarding success; or 800 more words about the election

Josh Presley
DTL Editor

Last time I said that the recent Democratic primary election was discouraging. That’s still true, but the results of said election are also kind of fascinating.
The majority of the minority that voted (seriously, shame on the more than half of you that didn’t vote) said they wanted something different. With the exception of the mayoral race, Election Day and the runoff didn’t turn out too well for the incumbents. Beginning in July, the West Point Board of Selectmen will be made up of three new (or two new and one newish) faces.
But why?
Before I get into that, I want you to know that this is not a criticism of any candidate or their philosophies or campaign platforms. As I’ve said before, I wish the winners nothing but the best and hope their terms are successful for West Point and all — not some, all — of its citizens.
But why the change?
I mean, I know why, in a literal sense: less people voted for the incumbents than for their opponents. But why such a groundswell for change? Hasn’t West Point been doing pretty well, at least by comparison to four or five years ago?
I wasn’t here then, but to hear people in the community talk, the West Point of before my time sounds increasingly like “The Grapes of Wrath.” The West Point of right now seems to be doing pretty well. Not perfect. But better.
There’s Yokohama (I must have become truly ingrained in West Point culture since that’s invariably the first thing I mention when asked how the community is doing), there’s Plum Creek, there’s new restaurants and shops (yes, I’ve noticed the more mom-and-pop operations aren’t having as much success and that’s a column for another day), Navistar and North Mississippi Medical Center are trucking along, our sports teams are winning state titles, etc.
So what was so wrong that we rewarded this success by voting against the board at least partially responsible for some of it?
Road conditions and utility rates, apparently. Sure, there were other things mentioned along the campaign trail, like bringing more unskilled jobs to the community or the importance of making improvements to the D-rated school system.
But it was mostly just light bills and potholes. Now, I don’t like driving on poor-quality asphalt. In fact, the very first thing I noticed about West Point when I came to interview for the job of news reporter in 2014 was “gosh, these roads are horrible.” A lot of them still are and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Why? Because we ain’t got the money to fix them.
Why were all these city streets being paved right around election time? Because it’s paving season. The best temperature for paving asphalt is about 70 degrees or warmer. Google it.
This particular set of road paving was voted on months ago, and the scheduling of it is up to Falcon Contracting, not Johnny Selectman.
What about utility rates? Everyone (myself included) thinks they’re paying too much for water and light. In fact, I think my bill is downright obscene in the hotter summer months, considering the size of the shoebox I call home.
Is there anyone really to blame for that? TVA maybe. That’s from where the City of West Point purchases its power, which it then distributes to Water and Light Department customers. The rates from TVA go up around September or October every year, and sometimes the City has to pass that increase along to customers and sometimes it doesn’t.
If I walk into the July Board of Selectmen meeting and the mayor or one of the board members stands up, says a prayer and waves their hands and we all of a sudden have free power, then I guess the majority of the minority were right.
Now, the thing is, you really should be concerned about utility rates and whether or not your street is paved. Is it the board or mayor’s fault if there’s something you don’t like? Maybe. Or maybe they’re just doing the best they can with what they’ve got. It may not be the board’s fault, but it is still their responsibility to address it. So if you felt the current board members weren’t addressing your concerns, then you did what was best for you in not voting for them. However, if what’s best for you turns out not to best best for the city, then it’s not really best for you. I’m not saying it won’t be. Just something to chew on, I suppose.
Before you go flooding Facebook or my email or Daily Times Leader’s phone lines (we only have two so it wouldn’t take much) with complaints that I’m criticizing any of the new board members, this isn’t a doom-and-gloom column, as I’m genuinely excited to see what the new(ish) board will do. I look forward to the next four years and what they have in store for the community.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t feel bad for the outgoing board members. It seems that the reward for all those successes was a resounding “no, thank you.”