The Town of Summerfield is known for its heated political battles – which, for the most part, end up being over land development.
And, right now, as the town adopts new development ordinances and makes major decisions regarding development, two of Summerfield’s best-known personalities are going at each other on social networks, in meeting discussions and in a local newspaper.
Don Wendelken, a former Guilford County Board of Elections member who runs a newspaper and a website covering town politics, is bumping heads with Summerfield Mayor BJ Barnes, who served as the sheriff of Guilford County before being elected Summerfield’s mayor.
The two men have been feuding for a long time. However, recently, as town leaders discuss a proposed new development from Summerfield landowner and farmer David Couch, the rhetoric between two, who are on opposite sides of Summerfield politics, has heated up.
For one thing, Barnes has been highly critical of what’s in the newspaper. Barnes said he’s fine with people having different viewpoints, but he added that the newspaper, “The Summerfield Scoop,” misleads its readers.
“Basically, his problem is that it’s not factual,” Barnes said. “He slants things to the way he wants them to be.”
Barnes said one claim Wendelken and others make is that the mayor and the majority of the Town Council are in the “pocket of developers,” and that they will approve just about anything developers ask for. Barnes said it’s true that he and others do want to see some well-thought-out, controlled growth in the town, but he added that Wendelken and other naysayers are unjustifiably stoking fears about how that would affect the community. Barnes said that he is certainly not taking marching orders from developers.
A “Rebuttal” in the paper stated, “Scoop Newspaper Is Accurate, And When Barnes Disagrees, He Attempts To Attack Those Who Disagree With Him And The Council.”
“Why do you attempt to belittle anyone who disagrees with you, even when you are quoted?” the editorial begins. “Please share any inaccurate (false) information in the latest issue (June) in Scoop’s newspaper. There were quotes, votes, and comments from your campaign when you ran for Mayor written in the newspaper. You have pushed people (not physically) into hiding their identities when responding to what is happening in Summerfield because they know you will attempt to publicly embarrass them.”
The editorial went on the criticize other practices of Barnes, like the way Barnes pointed out that someone making a comment was new to town, since that person had been a Union County voter until recently.
“Your technique has created more division because you don’t like the other side of the story,” Wendelken wrote. “So you did a voter registration check of the person who disagreed with you? Is this something everyone can expect when they question your leadership.”
Wendelken also said Barnes was wrong to claim public sentiment was on the side of the proposed changes to the development ordinances.
“In your comment below, you claimed the public hearing has shown otherwise? Really?” Wendelken wrote. “Since Covid restrictions were lifted, there were TWO public meetings when everyone could attend. One at Revolution Academy 17-18 were for the UDO and one at the last council meeting. Approximately 10 people spoke in favor of the UDO.”
Wendelken added, “You know, the population in Summerfield is over 11,000, and if your claim ‘A public hearing has shown otherwise’ (per your comment below), you are sadly mistaken.”