To the Editor:
I read reporter Cory Vaillancourt’s account of the Mike Clampitt Town Hall on Sept. 8 with astonishment. While I have a high regard for Vaillancourt’s skills as a journalist and I don’t usually take issue with his writing, I totally disagree with him on two points: I viewed the story Clampitt told that Vaillancourt described as “heartfelt” to be contrived and unprofessional; at no time during the two hour session was Clampitt “on the verge of tears.”
In his story to dispel a racist perception, Clampitt actually portrayed his former supervisor in the Charlotte fire department as a racist and described himself as the only person in a supervisory role to stand up for a black fire fighter who was being unfairly disciplined. Although he didn’t mention specifics, talking about a sensitive personnel matter in a public meeting demonstrates a lack of integrity. I believe that’s why the woman in the audience felt compelled to tell him that the story did nothing to change the perception she had of him.
Following her comment, Clampitt did cross his arms and lower his head (as Vaillancourt reported), but I viewed that action as an effort to overcome his anger before responding. There were no tears because he quickly turned to Vaillancourt and The Mountaineer reporter to say, “Get her name and put this in the paper.” Then, he replied to the woman in a forceful, defensive manner, shutting down any further dialogue by saying, “I’m done talking to you.”
I’m still puzzled as to what Vaillancourt saw that made him describe Clampitt as tearful. I was sitting right in front of Clampitt with a clear view of his face and I saw no sign of tears. From where Vaillancourt was sitting, he only had a side view of Clampitt’s face. Consequently, it would’ve been hard for him to see tears even if they had been shed!
In closing, I want to point out that there was substantive dialogue reported in the article, but I’m concerned that issues like Medicaid expansion, the opioid crisis and teacher pay are not the ones that will grab the attention of your readers. Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times, but it’s unfortunate that topics like the Confederate flag and racism tend to be what many people choose as their focus.
Chair, Haywood County