Summerfield Mayor BJ Barnes said this week that he’s exasperated by the negativity that’s constantly coming from former Summerfield Mayor Gail Dunham and other well-known critics of the town’s current leadership.

Barnes said the constant criticism detracts from Summerfield’s image and causes unfounded division in the town of about 11,000 people.

This week, three town employees who worked at the town’s Saturday, Nov. 20 Christmas tree lighting celebration tested positive for COVID-19 after the event – and Dunham criticized the town’s handling of the situation and warned the ceremony could turn into a “super-spreader” event.

Barnes said that was a typical type of alarmist and hyperbolic criticism that always comes from Dunham and a group of her political allies in Summerfield.

He said that the group of naysayers are constant critics and are always trying to stir up baseless fears about things like a town water system for fire protection, a proposed extra-territorial jurisdiction around the town, and potential tweaks to planning and development ordinances.

“They are always saying this may happen, or this could happen – this may  lead to uncontrolled development or this could  turn out to be a super-spreader event,” he said.

Barnes said it’s highly regrettable that the group stirs up some of the town residents and creates fear where there should be unity and cooperation. The mayor said the highly negative energy hurts the town’s image and hinders the current leadership’s efforts to move the town forward in a positive and unified way.  He said it’s hard to bring the town together when one group is constantly on the attack using deceptive statements, fear-mongering and outright lies.

 Barnes said it’s regrettable that several town employees tested positive for COVID-19 after the recent tree lighting ceremony.

“It was an outdoor event and the town has been taking the same COVID-19 precautions as everyone else,” Barnes said.

 He also said the town followed the county’s mask mandate when it was adopted this summer and the town does things like make hand sanitizer readily available at public meetings and other events and offers masks to those who don’t have one.

He also said that the virus tests failed by some town employees at the event were home tests and that it was even possible those could have been false positives. 

He said new results from more accurate tests are on the way.

“I hugged one of them and I’m fine,” Barnes said of an employee at the tree lighting who had tested positive.

Barnes said the coronavirus is something to be concerned about, but that Dunham’s “super-spreader” remark was way over the top.