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.”
Thanks Scott for your quote from Wendelkin which made my point on their being divisive. He cherrypicked the fact that I responded to a letter from a resident by stating I criticized him for stating an opinion. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started my comments to him by welcoming him to Summerfield after checking his registration to make sure he was a resident. Some of the distractors are not. While doing that I noticed he had only been here a couple of months by his registration. I suggested. being new, he may have been influenced by bias people (Don and others) who thru their activities have cost the town thousands of dollars in lawsuits and have not prevailed on any of their activities to date. Don’s problem is one of ommision and leaps to the absurd to try and sway opinion. It’s called yellow journalism. We’re seeing a lot of this in media today. His problem with me and this council is we have always been fair (to every citizen) and transparent in our dealings and welcome honest dialogue. We also suggest citizens do their own research as I did with the cirizen who had only been here a few months. We also don’t let erronous information run amuck. Don and his crew don’t like that. We won’t be bullied. BJ Barnes, Mayor
Is it your official stance that only people registered to vote are valued members of a community?
Is there a requirement to live in Summerfield a certain amount of time before the mayor respects your voice and opinion?
Very much looking forward to your reply.
How about just checking to see you lived in Summerfield at all? You totally ignored the mayor’s point. It would be improper for me to go to another municipality’s board meeting to criticize the mayor because I don’t live there.
I see nothing wrong with what he did.
1. I didn’t say he did something wrong, I asked him a question.
2. If you checked voter registration to confirm where someone lives it means you wouldn’t count them if they aren’t registered to vote or haven’t yet registered in that municipality.
3. He specifically stated that maybe the person was and suggested therefore I’ll-informed. That’s a little arrogant.
4. I’m asking Mayor BJ a question. Their silence is curious since they appear to read this site.
The very fact that Barnes would seek out a dissenting citizen’s voter registration & history is telling in itself. Why would anyone do that were they not afraid they may know something they should not. Well… If there is nothing to hide, there is no need to worry. I’m sure as long as Mr. Couch keeps his lodge dues current & keeps donating cash to all the right campaigns he can have anything he wants in little ol’ Summerfield, NC.
The Mayor is 100% correct here. The Scoop is publishing a ton of misinformation on the proposed development. This isn’t new. They’ve done this for years…. The Scoop is known for giving fake examples of what proposed development would be. Mr. Wendelken has no idea about development and how it is designed. He ignores the rules and regulations of the Ordinance, including definitions, the requirements for watershed protection, open space, etc. He just assumes the maximum is allowed on a whole piece of property. He has been unwilling to learn. I’m surprised Mr. Couch is still around and trying to plan a good development. Folks like Wendelken would piss me off and I’d sell off to DR Horton who would really tear up the property, even with the existing rules and regulations. Be careful Mr. Wendelken, you may get your worst nightmare if you continue to deface the Mayor and Mr. Couch.
Emma Grey or Beth Kaplan Doggett?
The article says that 2 meetings were held at Revolution Academy and one had about 18 people stand up and the other meeting around 10 people stood up saying they were not against the changes made to the UDO to allow higher density in Summerfield and would not mind water and sewer but what is not mentioned is the petition with over 1,700 signatures saying they are against higher density and water and sewer.
1700 signatures is a far cry from a majority of 11,000 citizens in Summerfield. You really should not be saying you are speaking for a majority in Summerfield when actually you speak for a minority.
What facts in Summerfield Scoop are incorrect? Mayor BJ Barnes publicly slanders citizens –but has not corrected any facts. Note if you question BJ Barnes he will privately investigate you and your voting record, and publicly slander people. There was NO Public Hearing for the radical changes BJ and his inner circle approved June 8. BJ and town minutes state some from zoning and the inner circle of council and mayor, town managers Scott Whitaker and Town planner Chris YOrk, and a couple developers met and agreed on those radical changes –when was that meeting? Another violation of the Open Meetings Act — continue while BJ collects votes on phone or email .
BJ — Two questions — what facts in Scoop are incorrect and WHEN WAS THE SECRET MEETING THAT LED TO RADICAL CHANGES IN DEVELOPMENT IN SUMMERIFLED…
Well, there is no way the area of the proposed ETJ is 6,197 square miles. That’s nearly two times the size of Yellowstone National Park.
THIRD QUESTION TO Mayor BJ Barnes and his inner circle, Tim Sessoms, Lynne Williams Devaney, John O’Day, Reece Walker . Fall 2019 when you ran for public office (PUBLIC) Why didn’t you tell the good citizens and voters of the Town of Summerfield that your goal was and is for Summerfield to be like Greensboro?
Do you have a crystal ball that lets you see the future? I doubt council members do either. How could they possibly know what would come their way?
I find it very stunning that Don Wendelken has the audacity to ridicule BJ Barnes for verifying a person’s voter registration and address. Wendelken has done this numerous times to people who go against what he posts on social media. He too publicly humiliates citizens that live in Summerfield but not in the town limits. He let’s the noncitizens of Summerfield know, their opinions or facts do not matter because of where they live. It’s not just Don that checks people’s voter registration either. The former Mayor Gail Dunham, Illegal Town Councilman Todd Rotruck, former councilwoman Elizabeth McClellan and others have done it as well. Stop beating the BJ drum accusing him of doing something wrong, when in fact you have done it yourself. There is no innocence on Don’s part and he knows it.
Could this possibly be of personal investment prior to being elected to office to prosperity for a select few in Summerfield?