[County Commission Chairman Steve Brown submitted the following letter in response to recent comments from commissioner David Barlow.]

I received numerous negative comments about our November 13 County Board of Commissioners meeting. I wanted to express some thoughts about what happened.

First, let me say that Commissioner Allen McCarty was a class act and the embodiment of civility when he opened our meeting with congratulatory remarks for Commissioner-Elect Pota Coston, wishing her well.  Commissioner McCarty’s final meeting will be December 11 and he served his constituents well.

The controversy at the meeting surrounded comments by Commissioner David Barlow in what one newspaper described as “a very backhanded congratulations to incoming commissioner Pota Coston.”

In prepared remarks, Commissioner Barlow demeaned people in the audience and others in our community, namely Democrats, calling them “demons” and “evil.”  There have been consistent verbal and written attacks on the Internet that consist of name-calling and venomous insults of Democrats and specifically female Democrats.

Commissioner Barlow often adds that his insults are given in the name of God as witnessed in Thursday’s display at our meeting with him saying, “I declare this, in the mighty name of Jesus.”

Local citizens have approached me with copies of Commissioner Barlow’s Facebook posts that reveal lists of invectives of a more brutal nature.

I had to sit through one tirade where Commissioner Barlow debased “the Blacks” with stereotypical racial insults, saying he knew such things to be true from his days of living in Mississippi.  I reminded him in front of colleagues that he was talking about my wife and he offered no apology.

Let me say that Commissioner Barlow’s comments should be in no way construed as the official or unofficial opinion of the Board of Commissioners. His words and sentiments belong to him alone.  I have never once heard any of the remaining commissioners or county staff members ever agree with or approve of Commissioner Barlow’s comments.

Quite a few people have asked why I did not cut-off Commissioner Barlow’s comments and my reply is that I believe in free speech.  As a sitting commissioner, he should be able to express his feelings and I would be a hypocrite to say otherwise.  The voters make the ultimate decision.

Yes, I wish he would leave Jesus, the most non-political being ever to grace the planet, out of his political gusts. Yes, I think Democrats have just as much access to heaven as Republicans. Yes, I think his remarks are incendiary and serve no other purpose than to divide local residents. However, I believe Commissioner Barlow has the right to express himself no matter how many of us disagree with him, noting that his words will only cause division if we allow them to do so.

Four of the commissioners are willing to discuss the district voting lawsuit based on facts, law and our philosophical perspective without the hostility.  Keeping harmony and civility in our community is paramount to the remaining four commissioners.

Steve Brown