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Big Shoes to Fill in Davidson

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With the news that the Venzon family of River Run will be moving out of the area, Davidson has big shoes to fill – not just one pair, but two.

Losing John Venzon as Chairman of  the Mi-Connection Board of Directors and Laurie Venzon on the Davidson Town Board removes the two people who have done more than any others to stabilize Davidson’s financial situation and repair the damage done by the creation of the locally owned cable company.  It is hard to overstate the potential impact of this dual loss.

While neither of them has given an exact date for their departures from their respective boards, those dates are surely coming.  Davidson needs to prepare.

On the Mi-Connection side of the equation, John Venzon’s eventual departure as Chairman of the Board removes a significant amount of big business experience from an organization competing in on of the biggest and most cutthroat of big business industries.  It comes at a time where Mi-Connection appears to be turning the corner or at least no longer sliding backwards.   His leadership directly helped push through the interlocal agreement renegotiation which encourages Mooresville to more aggressively promote the company, and he deserves credit for bringing in more experienced executives to run the company’s day-to-day operations.

It’s safe to say that without John Venzon’s leadership, Mi-Connection would be in a much worse situation than it is today.

If you ever attended a Mi-Connection Board meeting you would immediately recognize that the questions John Venzon asks helped guide the company in the right direction.  You would also recognize in years past that the answers received were often not complete or were along the lines of “we’ll get back to you”.  The changes implemented in the past year should remedy that, and John deserves the credit for making it happen.

A similar loss will be felt by the Town of Davidson.

In recent years Laurie Venzon worked diligently with Town staff to transform the Town budgeting process into something more transparent and organized – making it possible to compare year to year numbers.  Whenever asked she provides citizens clarifications and detailed explanations around where the money comes from and where it goes.  If you are interested in “numbers” Laurie is the person to speak with on the Board.  She played a leading role in last year’s renegotiation of the interlocal agreement with Mooresville on Mi-Connection – greatly improving Davidson’s cash-flow situation.  She is often the lone voice on the Board expressing the financially conservative position on any given subject.

In fact, as recently as this past Tuesday she played that role.

During the budget discussion at the Tuesday work session, the idea was floated that Davidson might consider issuing some bonds to speed along some additional spending projects.  Commissioner Venzon immediately spoke up that the State’s Local Government Commission (LGC) would likely frown on that  – in light of the Town’s debt burden due to Mi-Connection.

Commissioner Venzon understands that tax dollars are your dollars.  Losing that “voice of reason” on the Davidson Board will have an impact.

So how should Davidson proceed?

The decision to select a new Chairman for Mi-Connection requires agreement from Mooresville on the replacement of John Venzon in his at-large seat on the board if and when that becomes vacant.  The rules are set out in thisamendment to the interlocal agreement.  Davidson was fortunate to have a town resident fill that position.  However, going forward what the company needs most is solid business experience and a tremendous amount of dedication.  Finding someone with strong industry experience would also be a big plus.  Chief executive David Augur brings that to the table, but it would be great to have a second industry expert on the Mi-Connection Board in addition to Steven Miller

Regardless of who is selected, whether the person comes from Davidson, Mooresville or from somewhere else, the replacement needs to be committed to the goal of getting Mi-Connection to the point where it can be sold.  John Venzon stated this goal very clearly last year.

“This is our singular focus,” Venzon says. “To grow the system and prepare for an exit that protects the towns and the citizens.”

A change in leadership here should not result in a change in direction.

As for filling the vacancy on the Davidson Town Board…

The need to replace a member of the Town Board makes last year’s decision to abandon efforts to create 4-year terms seem almost prescient.  If the Town had moved to 4-year terms, it is highly likely that Laurie Venzon would have been one of the two Board members receiving those longer terms.  Since joining the Board she has always been one of the top two vote getters.  In a way, her leaving the Board validates that decision and proves the point that longer terms does not ensure less turnover.

See here for the General Statute governing the subject of vacancies on municipal governing boards.  The Town Board could appoint a successor.  However, just like during the 4-year terms debate, just because the Board can do something unilaterally, does not mean they should do something unilaterally.

With filing for the 2013 elections taking place in July, the appropriate decision is to leave the seat unfilled until this year’s vote.  The voters should be allowed to decide without the existing Board handing someone de facto incumbency by appointing a replacement mere months before the scheduled election.

Doing otherwise could and should be seen by voters as an effort by the Town to stack the deck in favor of one candidate over any potential others.  It would discourage qualified individuals from filing if they believed the “fix is in” prior to the campaign season even starting.

As the next few months unfold, there will be much discussion on how these two vacancies will affect the town.  Who the replacements are and how they are chosen will set the tone for Davidson’s immediate future.  Let’s hope our leaders choose wisely.

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Original article published HERE.

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