Dawson County citizens called a public ‘quality of life’ meeting Saturday, Jan. 4, at the Dawson County Library, where constituents raised questions and held civil discourse with each other and two county commissioners who attended.
“What we’ve got is a major communication problem between the Board of Commissioners and the citizens. Because we’re primarily a commuter county,” said Hugh Stowers, Jr., a lifelong resident of Dawson County who organized the meeting. “That takes the communication away from the major voting block of the community because they can’t get to the meetings after work.”
“The time they (the Board of Commissioners) hold the meetings, it starts at 4 o’clock until about 8 o’clock, something like that, and those people are trying to get home. If there’s a wreck, they can’t get home before 9 or 10 o’clock,” Stowers added.
The purpose of the meeting was to let those citizens who may not be able to regularly attend commission meetings voice their opinion to any government officials who wanted to show up and their fellow residents.
Commissioners Sharon Fausett and Billy Thurmond attended the meeting.
“What I saw was how deeply these people care about Dawson County,” said Commissioner Fausett, who represents District 1, a predominantly rural area of western Dawson County. “And to them, the quality of life equates with keeping the rural nature of the county.”
A lot of the conversation at the meeting revolved around the amount of development the county is seeing. Residents raised concerns and asked questions about the pace of growth, the balance of upgrading infrastructure and public safety capabilities, and the rise in high-density housing.
“They said that they were not opposed to growth, but they think it belongs in certain areas of the county more than others,” said Fausett.
The tone was mostly respectful, thanks to an expectation of civility laid out by Stowers at the beginning of the meeting.
“I asked them please do not try to talk at the same time. We’re all adults,” said Stowers. “I just want you to be considerate of your fellow citizens and wait until they’re finished. Someone asked if they should hold up their hands and I said that’s not quite right. This isn’t a classroom. This isn’t school. We’re here as adults to try to get a better lifestyle for our families.”
Some citizens still expressed their anger at the direction they felt the county was going.
“I felt some anger in that room,” said Fausett. “But I thought it was good. I thought it presented a good forum for people to vent, and of course I want to hear what’s going on. Because I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know what people are thinking until they tell me.”
Stowers plans on holding these meetings on the first Saturday of every month for the foreseeable future, “until citizens stop coming.” Any citizens wishing to attend may join the Facebook Group “Quality of Life Matters in Dawson County” for updates.
Fausett said she was planning to attend future meetings.