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home : most recent : hancock August 14, 2018

1/11/2018 12:42:00 PM
New Hancock County Tourism Commission appointee an outspoken critic

Rorye Hatcher, Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — George Langston is no stranger to the Hancock County Tourism Commission.

He’s been a fixture at the commission’s meetings over the years, often questioning its members about policy and spending, at times out of turn.

Now, he’s on the other side of the table.

The county board of commissioners has appointed Langston, a Greenfield resident who regularly attends many county meetings, to the very board he has regularly criticized. Commissioner Brad Armstrong said Langston’s interactions with the board, while sometimes contentious, have occasionally helped catch accounting and policy errors, leading the commissioners to select him for the position formerly held by Sarah Kesterson.

In May, Langston pointed out two members of the board had failed to take a legally required oath of office after being re-appointed to the commission.

“It may not seem like a big thing, but it should be done right, because we’re spending taxpayers’ money,” Armstrong said.

Langston, who is retired, said it took him some time to accept the appointment after he was asked in December. He said he believes his 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, from which he retired as a master sergeant in 1992, and his affinity for balancing budgets will help him in the new position.

Appointing Langston helps achieve two goals, Armstrong said. First, it brings a fresh and critical eye to county spending. Second, removing Kesterson from the board helps establish a clear boundary between the commission and the Hancock County Visitors Bureau, on whose board Kesterson sits.

The nonprofit visitors bureau for years received automatic funding from the commission to operate the downtown H.J. Ricks Centre for the Arts. Effective this year, the nonprofit’s leaders have been asked to go through the commission’s grant request process.

Replacing Kesterson helps the county have a clear, defined difference between the visitors bureau, which appoints its own board, and the tourism commission, whose members are appointed by the commissioners and the mayor of Greenfield, Armstrong said.

Those involved with county tourism had mixed feelings about Langston being appointed to the board. There’s little love lost between the commission members and Langston, who told the Daily Reporter in July the commission was shutting down his and others’ attempts to express their concerns with the tourism commission’s decisions by barring public comment during meetings.

Commission members felt so strongly about Langston and others disrupting proceedings, they asked for a police officer to attend to keep order.

Working alongside one of their most vocal critics is going to be a challenge, tourism director Brigette Cook Jones said.

“It won’t be all bad; I think he has skills we can use to help tourism, but I think there’s going to be a learning curve that will be difficult,” she said.

The commission elected new officers during Tuesday night’s meeting and offered Langston the position of treasurer, which he turned down. He said there are two accounting errors from the last year that need to be corrected before he will take that role. Langston did volunteer to be on the commission’s finance committee.

Earl Smith, who has served as president or vice president of the commission since its inception in 2003, said he is surprised Langston wouldn’t take a position that would allow him to have a hand in better the board’s accounting practices.

“I’m surprised George didn’t jump all over it,” Smith said. “All he wants to do is complain.”

Armstrong said he’s already received phone calls from those involved in county tourism saying Langston is “stirring the pot,” but Armstrong said he’s optimistic tensions will smooth over and the addition will improve the progress the commission has made in the past year.

“I’ve found if you take people from different ends of the spectrum and make them work together,” he said, “you end up in the middle, where you should be.”

Copyright 2018 Daily Reporter

Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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