Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

GOOD JOB! NEEDS WORK …: Play for all, brain drain, tax woman goeth

Good job! The new playground at Jackson Park accessible to children of all abilities is not only a fabulous new asset for families across the region. The ceremonial ribbon-cutting that officially opened the playground on Saturday morning also demonstrated anew how working together works better than pulling apart. When the old playground was deemed unsafe (and non-ADA-compliant), a group of people came to the Board of Commissioners with an idea. “This group had a vision for something greater,” County Commission Chair Rebecca McCall said. “And the cost was a little bit exorbitant and a little bit scary. But they also took on the challenge to help us raise that money.” The long list of donors, sponsors, grant-makers and volunteers that made the million-dollar playground happen shows that parks and recreation are the greater uniter in a culture of constant division. Here’s to Henderson County, too, for naming the playground for the founder and beating heart of Special Needs Sports, which has been ensuring that all children have access to organized team play for 13 years. The Donnie Jones All-Inclusive Playground is a destination to celebrate.

Needs work … A Board of Commissioners meeting this week will feature recognition and appreciation for five senior law officers who have recently retired from the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office. Maj. Christopher Denny, Master Deputy Michael Marsteller, Cpl. Allan Corthell, Sgt. Paul Blackwell and Senior Deputy Scott Estremera all have earned the community’s Godspeed and goodwill, of course. But the granting to them of their badges and sidearms in farewell also underscores the brawn and brain drain that is battering the sheriff’s office here and other law enforcement agencies across the state. Retired law officers can work a limited number of hours at their old agencies or a different one. The Legislature should enact a bill that would raise the number of hours that retirees (often still in their 50s) can work without losing pension benefits. The change — a win-win —would help officers who are willing to work and would be one solution for sheriff’s offices and police departments that increasingly struggle to fill the openings they have.

Good job! Speaking of retirement, commissioners this week will also honor Darlene Burgess, who retires as the county’s tax administrator on May 31. Burgess began her career with Henderson County as a paralegal on May 10, 1993, and served as deputy tax collector and internal auditor before her promotion to the top tax office post in December 2015. She’s managed the last two real property revaluations — in 2019 and this year, the county’s first to be completed totally in-house — and boasts an average tax collection rate of 98.6 percent. She’s also immediate past president of the North Carolina Association of Assessing Officers and has represented the county on other statewide boards. We join commissioners in expressing admiration and appreciation for the experience and wisdom that Darlene Burgess brought to the job every day and shared widely with her peers.

Good job! Locally and in the farm community, folks appreciate the service Blue Ridge Health has provided for 60 years to migrant farmworker families. Recently, the national association of Federally Qualified Health Centers officially recognized it, too. The association honored Blue Ridge Health as the top health clinic in the nation for outreach and service to the migrant community. The agency served 2,402 farmworker families last year, overcoming barriers “to bring affordable care right into the field for migrant workers and their families,” as Blue Ridge CEO Richard Hudspeth put it. “In a world that is increasingly beset with problems and tragedy,” Paloma Hernandez, the national association’s chair-elect, said of Blue Ridge team members, “they inspire us by the example they set and their belief that we can become a more compassionate and just society — if we all do our part.”