Can’t find a better man

by Jeff Sykes

I was driving my wife’s new Toyota RAV 4 down US 29 somewhere south of Brown Summit when I received the text on my phone. I have this rule about not looking at the phone when I’m driving, especially on US 29 in Greensboro, but there was a lot going on at the office, and even though I was taking the day off to drive to the mountains, I thought I’d better check it out.

“Matheny might have gotten a DWI early this morning on Cone Boulevard,” the text read. My source was at a prominent social function and said it was what everyone was talking about.

I couldn’t pull over and do the story myself, so I called back to the office and walked my boss, Charles Womack, through the steps of looking things up on the police website.

He confirmed the charge and speed dialed the spokesperson for the Greensboro Police Department.

I think we may have gotten the story up first, but I had a five-hour drive ahead of me and decided to let things percolate.

By the time I got to Macon County, of course, the story was all the rage, complete with Downtown Greensboro Inc. CEO Zack Matheny’s public admittance that he got plastered on Thursday night and decided to drive home at about 3:30 a.m. before ending up in the parking lot of the abandoned Harris Teeter at Cone and Church where an officer of the GPD found him passed out in the driver’s seat with his head on the steering wheel of his running Land Rover.

Matheny told the Triad Business Journal that he blew a .20, which is, of course, two and a half times the legal limit and a sign that any normal person is shit-faced drunk.

By the time I got caught up on the reports in other media, Matheny had been lauded by Mayor Nancy Vaughan for admitting he’d made a mistake, downtown leader Milton Kern had taken to a popular Facebook group to say he supported Matheny following his “unfortunate DWI” and hoped others would too, and a small group of Matheny acolytes had defended his honorable decision to admit “he’d made a mistake.”

So many things were wrong with this picture that I just shook my head in disgust despite being surrounded by the pristine beauty of Western North Carolina on the second weekend of October.

Let me begin. Matheny was the driving force behind running former DGI head Jason Cannon out of Greensboro on a rail. If I had as little ethics as the status quo elite that runs Greensboro, I’d type here in this space every last detail I’ve pieced together, every snide comment about Matheny that someone’s said to me over the last 18 months, but I won’t do that.

What I will say is that we here at YES! Weekly hounded Mr. Cannon based on documents provided to us that ultimately, we discovered, came from Matheny. Matheny wanted that job so bad that everyone in Greensboro could feel it. He lined up the mayor and Mike Barber, who according to DGI’s Cyndy Hayworth, called her up when she was the interim leader and threatened to defund the organization if Matheny was not hired.

Tax dollars and a city allocation provide the vast majority of DGI’s funding, so of course Matheny became head of DGI and the city continued to fund the organization in what Vaughan called “a year of transition.”

Matheny was to be DGI’s savior.

All involved said he was clearly the right man to lead the job. This in spite of a vibrant smear campaign by a recent mayor who warned people that Matheny needed help for a drinking problem.

See, it’s common knowledge around Greensboro. It’s what everyone talks about on the streets. I never thought it to be true. Until Friday morning.

It’s incredible to me that a 42-yearold man who has a decade of public service under his belt as an elected official could find himself passed out drunk on the steering wheel of his Land Rover in an abandoned parking lot in a rough part of town at 3:30 a.m. on a work night.

Matheny just started the job in late summer. He’s scheduled to make his first major presentation as DGI president on Thursday. And a week before that he’s slaphappy drunk in the middle of the night while his family is at home.

Of course he served up the story that he’d spent the evening attending community events before ending up at a friend’s house on the back porch having cocktails until 3:30 in the morning. Of course they were “talking about downtown,” which in the mind of a full-blown narcissist is supposed to make everything fine since he was at least discussing work while getting plastered until … well I think I’ve hammered that point home.

I’m not judging the man. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I’m judging the elite that runs Greensboro. Your people cry out for leadership. Your city simmers with economic desperation. Your neighborhood streets crumble. Your city is being left in the dust by economic powerhouses like Raleigh and Charlotte and even sleepy ole’ Winston- Salem. You fiddle with special-interest projects downtown and serve up Zack Matheny as the knight in shining armor to lead the city center into a new age of prosperity and he can’t even get out of the first quarter without bringing a gigantic black eye to DGI.

I think DGI stands for Drama Grows Incessantly, but somewhere I bet Jason Cannon is smiling. !