Chapin mayor upset over planning panel choice

tflach@thestate.comJanuary 26, 2014 

Skip Wilson

— New Chapin Mayor Skip Wilson is scolding other Town Council members for cronyism in picking someone he doesn’t favor for a post on the Planning Commission.

His complaint comes after neighborhood leader Wendie Orr-Svoboda won the post in a 3-2 split among council members over Gregg Ross, a real estate professional with experience on planning agencies.

It’s unusual acrimony among town leaders in the northern Lexington County community of 1,500 residents.

The selection of Orr-Svoboda is “politically motivated” and should be overturned, Wilson said in a commentary in a weekly newspaper circulated in the community.

He called for ending appointment of “political cronies,” a comment that angers other town leaders and Orr-Svoboda.

There was concern that Ross is a nonresident of the community who would face frequent conflicts-of-interest on development proposals because of his career, the three council members who preferred Orr-Svoboda said.

Wilson backed Ross, saying his professional credentials matter more.

In an interview, Wilson said his goal simply is to “doing what’s best” for the community.

Sometimes that requires pointing out what he considers to be a path other than the one chosen, he said.

Wilson’s complaints are typical of an imperial style displayed since he took office Jan. 7, Orr-Svoboda said.

“He has temper tantrums,” she said. “This man cannot stand it if he does not get his way.”

His remarks continue a habit of browbeating those who disagree with him, the three council members who favored her said.

“I’m very offended by what he says,” Councilwoman Kay Hollis said. “I don’t appreciate the way he treats our constituents – he is rude.”

Council members Bibi Atkins and Robbie Frick joined Hollis in saying the cronyism complaint is off-base.

”I don’t think (Wilson) is used to being in elected office and working in a democratic society with other elected officials,” Atkins said.

Wilson erred in suggesting the decision is “putting our personal self-interest ahead of what’s best for Chapin,” Frick said.

The mayor would do better to be conciliatory instead of combative, said Orr-Svoboda, who supported Wilson’s foe in the Nov. 5 election.

“He needs to chill out,” she said. “This isn’t his show – it’s a team effort and he needs to understand that.”

Orr-Svoboda is a retired business executive who studies planning on her own, saying the panel should consist of a “cross-section” of views instead of dominated by those associated with development.

Her goal, she said, is “make sure our town is developed in an upper scale manner.”

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