New Summerfield Mayor Tim Sessoms has a job a lot of people wouldn’t touch with a 20-foot pole.
Sessoms is heading up what is certainly the most divided town or city in Guilford County, and he said this week that his goal is to help bridge that divide and get people talking with one another in a less hostile and more honest manner.
The town is sharply divided over how much development – and what type – should be allowed in the town just north of Greensboro, and Sessoms says he knows it will be tough, if not impossible, to get everyone to agree.
When asked if he has the hardest job in the world, he said it may not be, “But it probably ranks in the top five.”
Sessoms said there are some strategies he thinks will help unite the town more than it is now. For instance, he said, he wants to see more town informational meetings where people can come and ask questions and engage in dialogue – as opposed to a typical meeting where each speaker comes and expresses his or her views for three minutes and then the next speaker does the same.
Currently, a lot of heated discussion centers around a proposed large residential development by farmer and local developer David Couch. At Summerfield Town Council meetings, there are frequently heated disputes about the project.
Sessoms said it may not be possible to get everyone to agree on the best options for growth in the town, but he said he at least wants to see everyone engaged in open, civil and honest discussion.
“My goal is to talk very honestly about things,” he said, adding that there had been a lot of hysteria in recent years regarding potential developments in Summerfield.
“I do think people are tired of the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf,” he said.
For instance, Sessoms said, some critics have pointed out that Couch’s development – if carried out to the maximum extent – could double the population of Summerfield from 11,000 to 22,000. But he added that what the critics don’t say is that that would take place gradually over a period of 25 years.
He added that some “troublemakers” in town blow things out of proportion in the discussions.
He said that one of the key questions of divisiveness is whether new developments will include apartments.
Sessoms added that he too wants a pleasant livable community and said one of the main reasons he wanted to be mayor is to play a role in overseeing trails and parks.
Sessoms said he does hope that he can get people talking rationally and honestly about development rather than just have people come to meetings and yell at one another.
He added that he would be more worried about the current large development on the table if it was being done by someone other than Couch.
“Of anyone, David would be the best,” Sessoms said. “He’s a good man and he’s a good developer.”