On Thursday, July 16, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners held its first virtual meeting in the history of the county, and, while the technology worked and the board conducted the county’s business, there were quite a few comedic moments in the novel production.
After the meeting, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips said he was pretty pleased given that it was the board’s “first run” at holding a meeting with no one in the same place. At the end of the night, several commissioners thanked staff for the hard work they had put in to holding the virtual affair.
The meeting got off to something of a shaky start when Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis – who’s also a minister – was supposed to give the opening prayer. The connection to Chavis couldn’t be established so Chairman Phillips asked Commissioner Alan Perdue to give a prayer. Perdue, somewhat surprised, gave a pretty good prayer – especially given that he’d had all of ten seconds to prepare.
In another mishap that brought some levity, Commissioner Skip Alston couldn’t vote on one motion – a motion he had made, in fact – because, when the time came for the vote, Alston’s Wi-Fi connection went on the blink.
Commissioner Carolyn Coleman’s phone camera was never once steady on her head, and, much of the time while she was talking, a picture of her ceiling was being broadcast.
But Coleman at least had something of a picture to show viewers. Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing, who didn’t say a single word until the very end of the meeting, never turned his camera on and viewers only saw the generic head icon used by the software.
Also during the entire meeting, there was only one small head in the upper center of the screen surrounded by black patches – except for one box under the picture that contained information regarding the item under discussion. County staff said they’re working to show more than one commissioner at a time in the next virtual meeting.
One highlight of the evening was that, not once, but twice, Commissioner Kay Cashion’s home phone answering machine took calls while Cashion was speaking, which meant any viewer could hear the callers and their long messages that at times drowned out what Cashion was saying.
Another interesting aspect of the July 16 virtual meeting was that, throughout the entire meeting, there was a loud annoying double beep that occurred every few minutes. One commissioner said later that he was “pretty sure it was [Coleman’s] smoke alarm,” which clearly needed a new battery.