Council appoints Whitehurst to planning commission

Robert Whitehurst Jr.

MOUNT JACKSON – In a tiebreaker vote at the Town Council organizational meeting Friday, Mayor J.G. “Bucky” Miller appointed Robert Whitehurst Jr. to the planning commission.

Whitehurst owns much of the land annexed by the town for the proposed mega site.

Before he broke the tie, the council was split 3-3. Council members Whitney Miller, Ken Hackenbracht and Roger Rudy voted against the appointment, while Dennis L. Andrick, Donald I. Pifer and Rod Shepherd voted for it.

Most of the dissenting votes came from worries of a conflict of interest from Whitehurst, given that much of the planning commission’s recent work has been putting together a plan for the mega site.

“I just feel it’s a conflict of interest on his part due to the fact of that connection of the land and what’s going on with the comprehensive plan,” Hackenbracht said of his opposition vote.

However, Miller said there shouldn’t be a conflict of interest so long as Whitehurst abstains from voting on any issues pertinent to the mega site.

Whitehurst offered a similar comment.

“I don’t think there will be any conflict of interest,” he said. “I will abstain from voting on anything that has to do with my property.”

Town Council made the appointment at a meeting that had been rescheduled days before without notice to the public or to the media. Town Manager and FOIA Officer Kevin Fauber said this was due to a work conflict, and the lack of notification was an accident.

“It was clearly an oversight on our part,” he said.

The consideration of Whitehurst as a candidate for the position came out of the blue for some council members. Hackenbracht said he remembers the idea having been floated around roughly a year ago, but first heard about the serious consideration on Friday morning.

Whitehurst himself said he was pleasantly surprised by the news.

“I expressed interest a while ago, but it just kind of happened.”

Whitehurst’s term on the commission began Friday as he took over the unexpired term of Larry Hand, who moved last week. His term ends June 30, 2018.

Council also added Larry Ambrose to the planning commission. Ambrose will replace Mark Bowyer.

Contact staff writer Jake Zuckerman at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or