Letter – Listen to the citizens

Published 12:46 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

I stay away from Facebook postings but was asked to read one recently. Seems a citizen was frustrated about being unable to use the Dendron Community Center, released a letter to the editor, the newspaper contacted the county, the county released a rebuttal, another citizen quickly obtained the rebuttal, released it online, personally criticizing the original citizen author.

We wonder why good citizens refrain from offering suggestions on how to improve our county.

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When I was elected to the county board, a Dendron citizen, Thomas Byrd, contacted me with the idea for the county to purchase the vacant post office and turn it into a place for citizen meetings and Parks and Rec programs. With Mr. Byrd’s assistance and county approval, his dream came true. Citizen volunteers assisted with initial dismantling of the building. The county touted it as an expansion to improve accessibility to recreation. It was a place where recreation programs were routinely held, families celebrated life events and citizens met. 

Our small towns need such an amenity for citizen well-being. During the pandemic, it came to an end. The county administrator asked if I thought the area residents would mind if the seniors met at the center until other options could be found. Thinking the town residents would not mind one day per week, I responded positively. 

Weeks later, I got a citizen call stating that the county informed them that the center was no longer available for citizen use. This decision was not made by formal approval of the board. Citizens in the district consistently expressed their disappointment that the center was not available. Mr. Byrd and others have been patient and have the right to be frustrated. They have communicated the need to reopen the center and offered suggestions.

The county needs to listen to citizen suggestions. Too often at meetings, the county becomes defensive, and just rebuts the input. The result is nothing is done. The message for citizens is that you better not complain or suggest. Such involvement is needed to turn around the downward trend of our county.


Michael Drewry