Chatham, commission board will miss Walter Petty

Posted 5/3/19

Soon, someone will take Walter Petty’s seat on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners.

They’ll never, however, take his place.

Petty, the board’s lone Republican, surprised his fellow …

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Chatham, commission board will miss Walter Petty

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Soon, someone will take Walter Petty’s seat on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners.

They’ll never, however, take his place.

Petty, the board’s lone Republican, surprised his fellow commissioners, his party and all of Chatham County when he announced his resignation from the board at its April 15 meeting. The timing was critical. As Petty’s business — Atlantic Power Solutions, which sells and services generators for agricultural, commercial and industrial clients — has grown, the additional travel and responsibilities have more and more prevented him from attending commissioners’ meetings and functions. He’s also endured the loss of a child. And at the same time, the workload of the board (which now includes holding the keys to the future of the “Our Confederate Heroes” statue in Pittsboro) has demanded more of him as well.

Something on Petty’s crowded to-do list had to give, so he made the painstaking decision to step away from the county’s board, effective this week.

It’s most decidedly a loss for Chatham County.

Petty is the kind of politician who’s becoming more and more a rarity among elected officials these days: someone who puts principles above personality and party. Where divisive partisanship might reign, Petty was someone whose moral map always led him to the high road; someone focused more than anything else on what was right, and what was best, for Chatham County.

To his credit, Petty consistently stood firm on his convictions and never shied away from sharing his views — but at the same time did the hard work of finding common ground with the board’s Democrats. The results were evident: far more majority board votes included him as among the “yea” votes than those which did not.

His amiability will be missed. He did the work a leader is supposed to do: come into board meetings and other board-related work sessions in a thoughtful way, having prepared and done his homework, and always positioned to listen and give valuable counsel. Quick to listen, in fact, and slow to anger — traits which not only set a great example but endeared him to the rest of the board and to his constituency.

Like those who expressed — we don’t think “shock” is too strong a word here — extreme surprise at his resignation announcement, we’re disappointed in his departure. Character and high caliber are assets on any public body, and when they come in a package like Walter Petty (articulate, thoughtful, sincere, diplomatic and with a perspective tinged with much wisdom), you want to keep it around.

Back when he made his announcement, the packed audience at Chatham County’s Agriculture & Conference Center in Pittsboro, there were scattered voices saying, “No!”

Among those, one woman spoke — presumably for her political party, but really for all of Chatham County — when she said, “You’re the only one we’ve got!”

The commission’s four Democrats will carry on without Petty, and the county’s GOP has nominated Andy Wilkie of Goldston as his replacement. But we’ll always remember Petty as one of a kind.


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