What’s new on the plateau


Patrick Taylor- Highlands Mayor

Our new commissioner, Marc Hehn, and I attended the Essentials of Municipal Government Workshop last week.  This workshop was sponsored by the University of North Carolina School of Government and the North Carolina League of Municipalities. It was my third workshop, and for Marc his first.

I attend these workshops because I always learn something new about municipal government. Invariably there are changes to municipal statutes.

Highlands is a member of the UNC School of Government and the N.C. League of Municipalities, organizations that support towns and cities and are important resources and consultants for member municipalities. 

Mike Smith, the Dean of the UNC School of Government, was at the workshop.  I had the opportunity to thank him personally for the 16 years that I have relied on the school as a critical professional resource.  I was a magistrate for 10 years before serving for the past six years as mayor. The School of Government also trains personnel in the state’s court and justice system.  They have 50 professors on the faculty that specialize in all aspects of North Carolina law and government.

When I was a magistrate Professor Robert Farb headed their criminal justice department.  Farb was the definitive expert on all North Carolina criminal statutes and legal procedures. I attended continuing education workshops where Professor Farb would analyze case studies and specific elements of a criminal statute in unbelievable detail.  If a magistrate had a question about a current case or charge, Professor Farb and his colleagues were just a phone call away.

That is also the case when it comes to operating a municipal government in North Carolina.  Town directors are only a phone call away from consulting with experts in specific fields such as municipal finance, meeting procedures, open records, zoning, or personnel, to name only a few.

I jokingly told Dean Smith that my goal has always been to make good decisions. The last thing a mayor or magistrate wants to be is a case study for the UNC School of Government. He laughed.

At the workshop I also spoke with Rose Vaughn Williams, the legislative representative for the NC League of Municipalities.  The league is also a major source of support for towns and cities.  Rose informed me that she believes the legislature will take action in the forthcoming short session on short term rentals and on fiber/broadband legislation. Her only caveat was that no one can predict what the NC Legislature will do.

Hope you can join us tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the Highlands Community Center for the December board meeting.  Our new commissioner, Marc Hehn, along with our reelected commissioners Brian Stiehler and John Dotson, will be sworn in.  I also want to thank outgoing Commissioner Eric Pierson for his many years of service on the board.

By the way, the newly sworn commissioners will have to take a two hour course on ethics and conflicts of interest put on by the University of North Carolina School of Government.