The Pinehurst Hot Mess: A beta-male exits Stage Left

Well, the worst kept secret in local politics has been confirmed.  Pinehurst mayor John Strickland will not be coming back for four more years.  Apparently, he didn’t have the stomach to face voters after his four years of back-room back-stabbing and dirty politics. The election for mayor is in November.

Councilman Jeff Morgan and former councilman Kevin Drum have already announced their candidacies for mayor.  Councilman, Washington lobbyist and Pinehurst newcomer “Parachute Pat” Pizzella is expected to jump into the fray soon.

Pravda-on-Pennsylvania gave Strickland the expected syrupy sendoff.  Despite all of the sappiness in their piece, NO ONE will miss him.  (Bill and Hillary Clinton will likely love to see him and his wife back in Chatauqua.)

During his previous term on the council, Strickland devoted himself to antagonizing mayor Nancy Fiorillo.  He regularly found himself on the losing end of a lot of 4-1 votes.  He ran a vicious, dirty campaign against Fiorillo, which she narrowly survived to serve her final term.

Fiorillo passed on getting into another mud fight with Strickland and retired.  Strickland teamed up with a cabal of downtown trust-fund snobs calling themselves “The Friday Group” to capture the mayor’s seat.  He earned a working majority on the council and went to work harassing rental property owners and championing draconian planning and zoning regulations.  Stress, anger and frustration bloomed wherever hizzoner roamed.

Strickland and his cabal nearly got us into big legal trouble with his attack on rental property owners.  His desire to settle political scores with Kevin Drum and Lydia Boesch DID land the village in a messy lawsuit that is now before the state Court of Appeals.

The important thing is: He’s gone. 

The real danger facing us is the capture of the mayor’s seat by Pizzella or someone else like him. Pizzella was a driving force behind a lot of the nonsense championed by Strickland & Co.

Many are converging behind Jeff Morgan as an alternative for mayor.  I was highly impressed with and supportive of Morgan when he first ran.  But, for the most part, he has sat like a bump-on-a-log during many a council meeting.  He has occasionally spoken up with Lydia Boesch to make some good comments and cast some good votes.  But he’s yet to display that he truly has what it takes to fix what has become renowned as The Pinehurst Hot Mess.

One big concern for me about Morgan is his affection for the tyrannical village manager Jeff Sanborn.  Sanborn has shown himself to be insubordinate to council members and downright rude to village residents. His public temper tantrum to Pravda-on-Pennsylvania regarding Lydia Boesch really raised his profile with village residents in a BAD way.  Many a retired executive residing in the village has proclaimed they would have drop-kicked Sanborn out the front door if he had tried something like that with them.  But, despite all his antics, Sanborn remains employed and unrepentant.

Morgan has spoken and written almost lovingly about Sanborn. Apparently, the two of them attended the same college.  (There are an awful lot of people I went to college with that DON’T impress me.) Morgan’s protectiveness and nurturing of Sanborn could hurt him at the polls.  Morgan could impress a lot of voters and bolster his standing as a leader by either getting Sanborn under control or sending him on his way. 

Kevin Drum has been there, done that.  He did some important work on the council during his one term. He lost his reelection thanks to some dirty tricks orchestrated by Strickland to make room for his pal Pizzella.  Drum has been the driving force behind the ongoing lawsuit about Open Meetings Law violations.  He is a downtown restauranteur as well as the principal in a regional golf marketing firm.  Drum speaks loudly and carries a big stick.  His style rubs some the wrong way.  But his approach to governing — a watchdog for the interests of the taxpayers – could go a long way for him with many voters.