Windley is saying all the right things publicly, understanding that his desire to become executive director of COMtech depends on his willingness to hold his tongue. But he did tell The Robesonian this: “The biggest problem I have is relationships you build up and friends you make at work. Then there are other things that you like to do and see finished, but you can’t. Working with the public, solving problems, helping people out, those are the kinds of things that I will miss.”
Does that sound like someone eager to leave a job?
We will say it: Windley was forced out — and anyone intimate with the situation knows that. What remains unclear is why, and why now?
Windley has managed the county for more than eight years, working largely with the same group of commissioners. There are going to be hurt feelings as tough decisions are demanded, but in the spring the county commissioners thought enough of Windley’s job performance to give him a $5,000 raise.
Windley’s departure, which becomes effective on Tuesday, was announced publicly on the heels of the news that the county is facing a $4 million shortfall, largely a result of lower-than-anticpated sales tax revenues, but also a result of the commissioners’ unwillingness to raise the tax rate.
This county suffers under a tax burden, but that is because the county is poor, and so many residents are unemployed, underemployed, or on fixed incomes. Tax revenues being generated are less than what is needed. Does anyone truly believe that the Department of Social Services, the Health Department, and the Sheriff’s Office — all of which account for more than half of the county’s employees — are overstaffed? In fact, all are shorthanded.
But last June the commissioners felt a need to trim a penny from the tax rate in a move that was all style and no substance. It also contributed $500,000 to the current shortfall.
If Windley is being scapegoated, it’s for the mess the commissioners made. They are the ones who approve the budget — and have insisted in recent years that the tax rate could not be increased. The lag in sales tax revenues was as easy to forecast as the next hour’s weather.
The county has never needed a competent and experienced manager like Windley more than it does now as tough decisions — layoffs and furloughs seem inevitable — loom. Those decisions will now be left to the next county manager, meaning that person will make enemies before having the chance to make friends.
The good news is that COMtech will benefit with Windley as its CEO. One of Windley’s strengths is recruiting industry, so perhaps he can help the county end a long dry spell in securing new jobs.
On Monday, Windley will be honored for his service to the county — and that is befitting. The problem is that recognition is coming too soon.
It shouldn’t have ended like this.