In four different decades of being a Guilford County commissioner, the highly opinionated and very talkative Skip Alston has never been at a loss for words.
However, that all changed at the very end of a Thursday, Jan. 19 Board of Commissioners meeting when a tardy 100-year-old was responsible for Alston running completely out of things to say.
On radio shows, one of the greatest sins you can commit is “dead air,” because people who are listening expect to hear something. Alston and his fellow commissioners likewise showed on Jan. 19 that they aren’t comfortable with dead air at meetings – and a very comical situation resulted when a 100-year-old woman the board was set to honor hadn’t shown up at the meeting.
When residents of Guilford County hit 100 years of age, the Board of Commissioners will read a resolution honoring the centenarian and will allow him or her to say a few words. That is always done at the start of the commissioners meetings – perhaps because 100-year-olds aren’t generally known for their late bedtimes.
On this night, centenarian Lucille Anderson had not made it to the start of the meeting and so the board had skipped over that ceremony and gone on to other business for a couple of hours.
At the very end of the meeting, when the board was just about to adjourn, Clerk to the Board Robin Keller informed Alston and the other commissioners that Anderson and her driver had had trouble finding parking but were finally on their way to the meeting room. Keller said Anderson would be there “any second now.”
Alston smiled and said. “I think we can wait around for someone who has been here 100 years and help her celebrate that milestone.”
Of course, the commissioners didn’t know it would take Anderson a long time to get to the room and the board sat at the dais awkwardly with nothing to say for an uncomfortable period of time. Finally, Alston asked Keller to speak about the upcoming commissioners’ retreat and Keller winged it for a good while, but then she ran out of things to say.
Alston then asked his fellow commissioners if they had any questions about the retreat.
That resulted in another very long awkward silence as none of the commissioners had anything to say.
Alston, noting that no response was coming, said, “I was trying to kill some time – trying to keep you talking.”
Then Alston asked each commissioner to speak on their involvement with NACo, the National Association of Counties.
The chairman then asked if anyone wanted to “brag on yourselves” and what they were doing to fill the time.
Each commissioner spoke on basically whatever came to their mind to fill up as much time as they could until finally, mercifully, Anderson entered the room, got a standing ovation and enjoyed the board’s celebration of her life.
Alston told the Rhino Times after the meeting that had Anderson not entered when she did, he was about to let the Rhino Times speak on what had been going on with that publication.