Jacques Mallet du Pan coined the phrase “A l’exemple de Saturne, la révolution dévore ses enfants” in his widely circulated 1793 essay Considérations sur la nature de la Révolution de France, et sur les causes qui en prolongent la durée. Translated,“the Revolution devours its children,”; with the resignation of County Administrator Katie Nunez and the sacking of Economic Development Director Kris Tucker, this phrase seems appropriate for Northampton County. In our case, the attempted revolution was the 2015 zoning ordinance.
The first to be devoured was the plan’s architect, Willie Randall, who was ousted at the polls by Granville Hogg. Eventually, 2015’s main foot soldier, then economic development director Charles McSwain, clearly read the signals, resigned and moved on. Last November’s election took its own toll. Larry Trala saw the writing on the wall and bowed out, while former chairman Rick Hubbard was ousted by Spencer Murray; reform candidate Duer stepped into Trala’s vacant seat. Ms. Nunez must have gotten the memo of her demise, as that message was clearly sent when the new Board took office—Nunez, who had been sitting at the center of the dais between Larry Trala and Chairman Hubbard, was moved to the far right, as close to the door as they could get her.
The resignation of Nunez appears to be the end of this chapter, but is it the best plot line? While there is no doubt Katie Nunez was a lightning rod, and one of the most divisive figures in Northampton politics, the question is whether Northampton is really better or worse without her? The basic fact is that Ms. Nunez served the county for 11 years, walking a fiscal tightrope that would have crushed a lesser administrator. Having to deal with and take direction from the Northampton County Board of Supervisors for 11 years must have taken superhuman levels of fortitude and humility. Being Town Manager and having to deal with the Cape Charles Town Council may be the only ring of hell that would be considered worse.
The Cape Charles Mirror spoke with several members of the County staff, and the portrait of Ms. Nunez was quietly different from the public persona that has been propagated over the years. Most remarked that Nunez was always dedicated and diligent as well as being the hardest working person inside the Eastville complex. Our interactions with Ms. Nunez were always cordial and professional; whenever we asked a question (many times hard ones), Katie was always prompt and clear in her responses, many times sending much more data and information than we generally needed. The same can be said of her staff, a policy we’re sure started at the top. Our interactions with Kris Tucker were the same.
11 years, however, is a long time, and in the grand scheme, it may have been time for a change, for both Katie Nunez and the County. Change can be good, or it may not. In our case, only time will tell.
The next crew will have their work cut out for them, trying to keep this ship afloat in a poverty ravaged backwater. How we will keep our schools open as well as keeping the limited services in operation is the multi-million dollar question. The real county economy, following the national trend, has flat lined, and may even be moving backward, despite the phantasms of tourism and aquaculture, whose meta-narratives have somehow taken on the sound and fury of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Like the song, they signify nothing.
While Ms. Nunez will probably be moving on to bigger and better things, we’re stuck here, barefoot and knee deep in sticky oyster mud.
Oh, well. Into the great wide open.