Ever since the coronavirus slammed hard into the US in March, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has had to constantly work out the kinks of conducting the county’s business virtually.
While the county commissioners and county staff now have most of those details under control seven months into the pandemic, one commissioner – Carolyn Coleman – is still having a devil of a time getting the hang of the new virtual world.
At just about every commissioners meeting, the phone or internet connection with Coleman ends up in some sort of problem, with the situation often reaching comedic proportions. One problem that arises is that the commissioners can never seem to get Coleman on the phone in the first place, but, the bigger problem is that, once they do have her on the phone, there’s a running background soundtrack throughout the meeting.
In one meeting earlier this summer, for example, a fire alarm battery in Coleman’s house was low, so, for the entire three-hour meeting, every minute or so, there was a sharp, piercing sound that broke up the conversation.
In Coleman’s defense, she isn’t the only culprit. Commissioner Kay Cashion was taking part in one virtual meeting this year and, while she was addressing her fellow commissioners, her home phone answering machine came on and someone left a very loud, long rambling message as Cashion continued speaking to the board on a matter of county business.
At the October 1 meeting, the board met in the old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro – however, Coleman, like some other commissioners, elected to attend by phone.
When the sound of a TV in the background filled the meeting room, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips knew exactly who the culprit was.
After realizing the solution wouldn’t resolve itself, Phillips said, “We are taking a little bit of feedback from someone on the line. There is some background noise so if you’re able to…”
“At least you didn’t call my name out,” Coleman said over the phone line.
Phillips couldn’t make out what she said because of all the background noise.
“I’m sorry?” the chairman inquired.
“I said,” Coleman replied, amplifying her voice rather than turning down the TV, “at least you didn’t call my name out.”
To which Phillips responded, “I didn’t call out anybody’s name. I’m trying to be very diplomatic … but we think it may be you.”
That got a good deal of laughter.
“I told you last time that we love you,” Phillips continued,” but would you please just put yourself on mute. You can come back anytime. You know that.”