Small town municipal elections in non-presidential contest years can often turn out to be pretty low-energy affairs.
However, in the Town of Summerfield – where many people see the future of the town as on the line – there’s a whole lot going on as the residents cast their votes for mayor and town councilmembers.
One vocal group says the town is threatened by high-density development that would destroy the rural nature of Summerfield, while another equally vocal group argues that there’s a path for controlled growth that will both preserve the charm of Summerfield and allow landowners to put their property to its highest use.
Recently, the Great Battle For Summerfield of 2021 has been waged in person and in print – including in the “Northwest Observer” and the “Summerfield Scoop” newspaper, which is owned and run by former Guilford County Board of Elections member Don Wendelken.
In fact, the battle is going so strong that even a non-candidate shelled out big to weigh in on the election in print. Summerfield Mayor BJ Barnes, who isn’t running for reelection this year, used money from his campaign fund to buy two full side-by-side pages in the “Northwest Observer.”
Barnes used that print space to go after Wendelken’s “Summerfield Scoop” paper, which is also a popular Facebook presence.
The ad is titled “Fact. Vs. Fiction,” and has the tagline: “Summerfield citizens, do you know the difference? If you believe what you read in the ‘Summerfield Scoop’ you may not.”
Barnes then goes point by point through statements in the Summerfield Scoop that he claims were misleading.
Wendelken said it was interesting because Barnes largely used campaign funds at the time of an election to go after him and his paper. Wendelken said that’s legal since Barnes did touch on the Nov. 2 election in town, but he added that it was unusual.
Barnes used to level these types of attacks largely from his Facebook page, which had a following of thousands, however, Barnes has been banned for life from Facebook for reasons that Barnes says are unclear and unwarranted.
Wendelken also offered some quite biting commentary in the form of a Halloween tale in his paper.
The front page of the new issue of the Summerfield Scoop has a large picture of two eerie jack-o’-lanterns. The piece, titled “A very Scary Halloween Story,” is a thinly veiled allegory about those who Wendelken sees as a threat to the town due to a too accommodating attitude toward development.
The story begins, “A very scary group of trolls met around a boiling cauldron last June and asked themselves, ‘What is the nastiest thing we could do to the townspeople of Summerfield this Halloween?’ The lead troll said, ‘I know, we could create a PLANNED DEVELOPMENT ORDINANCE that would change the rural nature of their town FOREVER and destroy that which brought most of the townspeople to Summerfield.’”