BLOWING ROCK — Commissioner Virginia Powell felt strongly enough about her dissenting vote in a special meeting of Blowing Rock’s board of commissioners on Sept. 7, that she resigned, effective Friday, Sept. 10, at the same time a new town policy on COVID-19 goes into effect.
The commissioners voted 3-2 during the meeting to give town employees three choices: (1) get vaccinated; (2) if not vaccinated, submit to weekly testing; or (3) be terminated from their employment by the town of Blowing Rock.
Although the town council deliberated on the “get vaccinated or else” mandate advanced by Commissioner Sue Sweeting for almost an hour, it didn’t take Powell more than about five seconds to announce her near immediate resignation.
The other dissenting vote on Sweeting’s motion was by Commissioner Albert Yount, who said he could not support what he felt was a Draconian measure, that there had to be another way to achieve the desired result.
Sweeting argued that the town has a responsibility to protect all of its employees, including those who have been vaccinated from potential unvaccinated carriers of COVID-19, noting that even many vaccinated people have been victimized by the virus in the recent surge of infections and hospitalizations.
Powell argued that the “or else” component of the policy Sweeting proposed was unfair to longtime loyal employees who stayed with the town, providing services to residents and businesses before vaccinations were even available. She suggested that it was an extreme measure that was unnecessary, as well as unfair in telling people they had to have “this foreign substance injected into their bodies or lose their jobs.”
It was not clear from testimony by town attorney Allen Moseley what the legal ramifications might be for the new policy. He said that it was uncharted territory and would probably require a court case before any kind of defining decision could be advanced.
Upon leaving the meeting, Pete Gherini, chairman of the Blowing Rock Planning Board and a candidate for town commissioner in the upcoming election, noted that three physicians were in the audience and all were supporting Sweeting’s position given what she stated was the danger in not taking action to help curb the pandemic.
After winning support from commissioners Doug Matheson and David Harwood to get Sweeting’s motion passed, the town council went into closed session at 6:03 p.m.