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Commissioner Pless acting like a third-rate politician

To the Editor:

When it comes to the internet, I am the first to proclaim myself as a troll. Although I do appreciate Haywood County Commissioner Mark Pless’ extreme level of pettiness recently when lashing out at a constituent’s $16 dollar tax bill from seven years ago on his personal social media, I am appalled at his lack of professionalism. I am even more so disturbed by his lack of humility and self-awareness. 

A person who lacks humility is arrogant. It is a person who only thinks of themselves and sees themselves as higher and better than others. There is no room for an arrogant person to improve themselves because they do not recognize their flaws. A person who is not humble does not have a growth mindset. Get humbled, Pless. Commissioners WORK for us. We do not work for you. 

When defending his blatant invalidation of a Haywood County resident’s concerned email, Pless points to his constitutional First Amendment right. Mr. Pless, just because you have a right to free speech does not necessarily mean you need to exercise it at every opportunity. Impulse control is vital when you’re in a leadership position — even in the Trump era. You are a “leader” (I use this term loosely in your case). As a public official, you are most definitely held to a higher standard than the rest of us. If you can’t accept the responsibility then you have no place holding an elected office. As they say, “if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen…” By placing yourself in the spotlight, you open yourself up to criticism. It goes with the territory. 

When I was serving in the U.S. Navy, I attended extensive leadership training. A true leader has integrity, serves as a mentor, focuses on team building, compromises, works with others, examines diverse points of view, and understands empathy. A true leader blends mindfulness, practical advice, facts and information to form a decision. Applying these practices, you’ll reach your “Optimal Outcome” — which may be vastly different from what you originally imagined, but more satisfying than you ever dreamed possible. 

So really, who exactly is Mark Pless serving in Haywood County? He is a fervent enemy of harm reduction. He continuously ignores our county’s homeless problem. Real people in our community are plagued with low wages, unaffordable housing, lack of healthcare access, and addiction issues. A leader should feel obligated to tackle these problems head on without denouncing and attacking individuals. A good offense is the best defense. 

What next, Pless? Are you going to start phoning your adversary’s elementary school teachers to dig up dirt on their past behaviors so you can invalidate their concerns? This is not the campaign trail. This is not a smear campaign. This is real life — real people who live and work in your community. If you gaslight and distract from the problems, they won’t go away. A narrow mind is clearly not the answer and these issues have yet to disappear. No matter how much he deflects. 

I would like to remind Pless that he is one person and we’re an army. Using ignominy to target specific individuals will not serve you in our community. I personally know the woman whom he openly shamed over $16. She is one of the kindest, most compassionate and accepting persons, an asset to our community. Instead of making a mockery of local government, Pless should be focusing on inclusion. We already have a president who can’t stay off social media. We don’t need a third-rate local politician mimicking him. 

I’m an eighth-generation resident of this county. I never thought I’d see a day when our elected leaders were bullying the vulnerable and excluding differing opinions from the conversation. Mountain people will not be intimidated. We will not remain silent. We will be vigilant. We take care of our own. It’s what makes us unique. Get on board, Pless. Change is coming. It is currently sweeping the nation. We, the people, are no longer taking it on the chin. 

Heather Hyatt-Packer

Haywood County

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