On Monday, June 17, out of the blue, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners doubled the size of the county department focused on increasing minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE) participation in county construction and service contracts.

The nine-member board voted unanimously to add a new position to the current department – which, until the Monday vote, only had one county employee: MWBE Director Cynthia Barnes-Phipps.  At a June 17 budget work session, the board approved up to $60,000 in funds to create the new position that Commissioner Skip Alston argued was necessary to help Barnes-Phipps get the county’s MWBE records in order and increase the county’s use of minority and women-owned firms.

It was surprising to see all five Republicans on the board approve the position because several of them didn’t see the wisdom of even establishing the department in the first place last year when Alston proposed the idea.

At the Monday work session, Alston initially requested $75,000 for the new position, however, several commissioners suggested that a capable assistant in that line of work could be hired for under $40,000 a year – so, even with the employee benefits that the county offers, $60,000 annually would be enough to cover the cost.

Commissioner Jeff Phillips inquired of Alston if adding the position should be “good for an extended period in your estimation” in an obvious move to make certain that Alston wouldn’t request yet another position for the department next year.

Alston said that at this time he didn’t see that as a need, but he added that he did want to leave the possibility open for future expansion of that department next year or in the following years.