Wind battle prompts resignation: Hartsville's Amy Emerson resigns as supervisor, blames Airtricity controversy as reason
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By Rob Montana, Staff Writer
HARTSVILLE – Generally, stress and lack of family time convinced Hartsville Supervisor Amy Emerson it was time to step down from her position. Specifically, it was all about wind.
Deputy Supervisor George Prior opened Wednesday night’s town board meeting by announcing Emerson’s resignation from the supervisor position, effective Sept. 30. Emerson, 32, who served as town supervisor for five years, was not in attendance.
Prior read an e-mail from Emerson, a letter to the board from her family and Emerson’s official letter of resignation, dated Sept. 13. The letter stated she needed to spend more time with her family, and away from the heated wind farm debate.
“The continued controversy and negativity has invaded our daily lives 24 hours/7 days a week,” the letter stated. “I am making the choice to no longer live that way.”
Prior suggested keeping Emerson on as bookkeeper for the time being, a job she served for four years before she became supervisor. Councilman Gene Garrison had no problem with that, but Councilwoman Mattie Parini expressed concern. She asked a full audit be done because she had questions about how the record-keeping was conducted in terms of grant money for the work being done on the new highway department building.
“I’m not saying there’s money missing, but there might be money in the wrong spot,” Parini said, abstaining from a vote on keeping Emerson in the bookkeeper role.
Prior stated an audit had not been deemed necessary after a recent inquiry by the board, but Parini wouldn’t vote “for her to continue doing the books until I know the books are right.”
As for a replacement, Prior suggested board members come up with some candidates for the next meeting. Then they can discuss a potential appointment and possibly take a vote, he said. Prior and Garrison both stated during the meeting they had no interest in taking over the supervisor position, while Parini and Councilman Jim Perry both said after the meeting they didn’t want the job either.
Resident Steve Dombert, who has been a vocal critic of the town’s leadership and decision to go forward with an Airtricity-developed wind farm, responded to veiled comments made in the letter from Emerson’s family. In the letter Prior read aloud it didn’t mention Dombert by name, but there was mention of an individual who had behaved inappropriately and made rude comments. Dombert took the letter’s comments as references about him.
“Since the Emersons have decided to put the blame on me, I categorically deny saying anything rude or improper,” he said. “Sean Emerson was full of baloney in April, and he’s full of baloney now.
“And, I was subjected to plenty of abuse from you windfarmers,” Dombert added, after which Prior stopped him from continuing.
Though she was not at the meeting, Emerson responded to several e-mail questions about her resignation.
“My family is the most important thing to me, and I can’t put them through this any longer,” she said. “You wouldn’t believe the smiles and hugs my kids gave me when they found out it was finally over.
“I also have to remember to take time for myself,” Emerson added.
A year of wind farm development controversy really spelled the end of her tenure, she said, adding she had no idea it would become that much of an issue.
“Before October of last year, I couldn’t have told you the first thing about wind turbines, let alone what a proposed project would do to this town or the ordeal the town officials would have to endure,” Emerson said. “As time progressed, I really enjoyed learning more and getting a better understanding of things, but then the long hours, never-ending battles back and forth in the paper and on the radio started to wear thin.
“My part-time job became full-time and began to overshadow other things in my life,” she added. “When I ran for this part-time job, I knew it would allow time with my family, and that has drastically changed.”
Emerson contemplated resigning for several months.
“Leaving the job is something I thought about off and on throughout the year, and as you know, it’s been a tough year,” she said. “As it turns out, today’s the day. Having made that decision, I feel a huge weight has been lifted.”
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