Surry Supervisors work on being civil

Published 7:02 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

SURRY— The Surry County Board of Supervisors is working on its communication skills and boosting community and Board unity with the help of licensed social worker, Dr. Jeremiah Williams.

In front of the public in the Surry County General District Courtroom — where Surry’s Board of Supervisors meetings take place — the five members conducted a workshop centered around a self-help book called “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes Are High,” published by McGraw-Hill Education.

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Chairman Michael Drewry said he’d arranged the workshop after discussions with other Board members about improving cohesiveness throughout the county. 

The work session came weeks after Drewry’s leadership as chairman was criticized by Surry District Supervisor John Seward.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

At the Aug. 1 Board of Supervisors meeting, Seward said that he’d never seen county matters in such a state of disarray as they were after Drewry became chairman, which occurred in January. 

Drewry said that as the newest member on the Board, other members had attempted to keep him quiet when it came to county affairs. 

Seward said that he remembered discussing with other Board members having Williams work with them on “cultural cohesiveness,” and that he was surprised that the workshop was centered on training the Board to have high-stakes conversations, as described by Williams. 

In wake of public criticism about the Board not getting along, Carsley District Supervisor Kenneth Holmes said that perception is untrue.

“The key thing that the audience needs to understand is, as members of the Board of Supervisors, the five of us, we have not been sitting around bickering and arguing and stuff among each other,” said Holmes. 

Holmes added that members of the public may disagree with the Board’s choices, but that’s different than the board having arguments among one another. 

“We reach decisions every month, and we get along well,” said Holmes. 

Holmes also said that members of the Surry County Concerned Citizens Organization have called members of the Board stupid “at least twice” at their regular Board meetings and suggested that Williams go back to that group — of which he’s the second vice president — and hold a training session for them as well. 

“Go back to them to teach them how to act in public and to be positive,” said Holmes, stating earlier that Surry County Concerned Citizens Organization wasn’t representative of the entire county. 

Among other concepts from the book, Williams discussed the “Fool’s Choice,” which he Williams described as believing that one must choose between 1.) speaking up and risking turning another into an enemy, or 2.) suffering in silence. 

“Fool’s Choice is to think that these are the only two choices available to you,” said Williams, adding that in order to avoid the Fool’s Choice, individuals must have an effective dialogue. 

At least fifty members of the public were present for the workshop. 

Crucial Conversations was written by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.  {/mprestriction}