At least in this century, every time a Guilford County commissioner has left the board – due to election loss, death, voluntarily stepping down or whatever – it has always happened with a great deal of fanfare, with the remaining commissioners speaking highly of the departing commissioner, even if they feuded with the person while serving together.
However, at the Thursday, Oct. 5 meeting of the Board of Commissioners – the first meeting after former Commissioner James Upchurch suddenly vacated his seat on the board – there was absolute radio silence regarding the empty District 6 seat at the dais or the man who had once occupied it.
At the meeting, it was as though Upchurch had never been on the board.
Only at the very end of the meeting did a commissioner mention Upchurch’s name. However, that was merely in passing to acknowledge that he had been one of the county officials who attended a certain public event.
When, in 2017, former Commissioner Ray Trapp did something similar to what Upchurch did – left the board suddenly to take a high paying job – fellow commissioner after fellow commissioner, regardless of party, lauded praise on Trapp and spoke about what a huge loss his departure was for Guilford County government.
After Commissioner Carolyn Coleman died in January of 2022, there were endless glowing speeches by commissioners at meetings regarding her service to the county and what losing her meant for the board.
When many, many previous Guilford County commissioners have left the board after losing elections or choosing not to run, the remaining commissioners have always taken a significant amount of time at a public meeting to pause and pay homage to the service of that commissioner.
So, it was absolutely striking at the Oct. 5 meeting – and at work sessions – that Upchurch’s name did not even come up. There doesn’t seem to be any anger among the commissioners at Upchurch – who switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican a year after being elected.
The current attitude regarding his departure is not one of residual anger but seems to be more like apathy or simply sheer forgetfulness.