Wendell Mayor Tim Hinnant caught everyone off guard Monday night when he charged that the town’s Chamber of Commerce had mismanaged money. He offered no explanation to clarify his remarks at the meeting, instead, banging the gavel down to adjourn the gathering. Town manager Teresa Piner couldn’t defend his comments. Other commissioners outright disagreed with Hinnant and the chamber leadership aggressively defended itself the next day.
After the meeting, Hinnant spoke briefly to his brother and sister-in-law, former commissioner Carol Hinnant about the matter, but ended an interview with this newspaper shortly after it began.
Hinnant’s words, it seems, were poorly chosen. He may have disagreed with how the chamber of commerce decided to spend its money. He may have been made aware of some financial practices he didn’t approve of. But none of that amounts to mismanagement. And to suggest that the chamber of commerce is somehow engaging in some nefarious activity is simply wrong.
The town and the chamber need each other. The town benefits from events and promotions the chamber of commerce organizes and directs in support of the local business community. The chamber benefits from the town’s support through promotional efforts and access to sites and facilities.
The chamber is still working its way through financially tight times, not unlike the town itself. The chamber’s business model has moved away from paying a staff member to a volunteer-driven entity and volunteers have stepped up to do a lot of heavy lifting for the chamber.
Hinnant is as free as any other person to hold an opinion on the propriety of chamber operations, but he doesn’t serve the town – its government or its business community – well in making broad statements without supporting them or at least ensuring that when he’s expressing nothing more than his opinion everyone is clear that is what he was doing. Words matter. In this case, the mayor chose his poorly and caused a lot of unnecessary grief.
But, as he explained Monday night when he ended a short interview, he only has to deal with this until December.