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[YOST IN THE MACHINE]

by Scott Yost

Yost’s famous seat

It is almost always a good idea in nearly every situation to save the best for last, and, recently, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners showed an immense appreciation for that very important principle. At the board’s last meeting, the commissioners waited until the very end to conduct what was by far the most important business of the night: They voted unanimously to officially decree a chair in the meeting room the “Scott Yost Chair.”

If you are not aware, naming a chair after someone is the highest civilian honor that a board of commissioners can bestow upon a private citizen — it is essentially the American equivalent of knighthood — and, while I may very well be making that last part up, there’s no question it is indeed a great honor nonetheless. One county official told me there will be a plaque attached to the chair commemorating its historic designation.

The chair in question is one I sat in for 10 years and five months while covering the county commissioners for the Rhinoceros Times. Year after year, I attended virtually every minute of every meeting. took copious notes from that chair until the Rhino went out of business at the end of April.

I wasn’t at the meeting when they named the chair, though I of course watched the video later. At the meeting, Commissioner Kay Cashion, the chairman of the county’s naming committee, stated, “Several of us have commented tonight how unusual it is to sit here and not see Scott Yost in front of us.” She then proposed the board designate “the chair previously occupied by Scott Yost” as “the Scott Yost Chair.”

“We do this,” she added, “recognizing his deep interest in the Guilford County Naming Committee.”

One commissioner commented that I would no doubt be pleased to read about it in the News & Record the next morning, and N&R reporter Joe Killian laughed and called out: “That has to be front page above the fold!” (The chair that Killian was sitting in, by the way, is not named for him, nor has his chair ever been recognized as special in any way.)

The next day, the N&R ran the story, but I was a little disappointed that such an important story in the history of Guilford County didn’t make the front page as Killian had stated that it would.

A couple of days later, there was a second story about the chair on A-2. That story did have a teaser on the front page above the fold: “County turns tables on longtime reporter for the Rhino Times.”

Now, the thing that made the whole incident so incredible is this: For years, I have relentlessly made fun of the Guilford County Naming Committee for devouring vast amounts of staff time, commissioner time and my time. The committee has met obsessively for two years to name every building, meeting room, dirt road, bike path and picnic shelter in Guilford County. In one article, I pleaded, “Please stop them before they name again.”

My main problems with all this naming business were:

• Guilford County is $1.1 billion in debt and it seemed strange to me that the county should spend all that time naming things when it was spending little to no time getting its financial house in order. It was sort of like rearranging deck chairs on the Costa Concodia as it took on water.

• There were a bajillion long naming meetings and that was time that I could have otherwise spent at the pool; and, perhaps most importantly, • Now that the county has renamed every building and meeting room, no one can find anything anymore.

Recently, I saw a veteran county official who looked lost. He was looking for “a meeting in the J. Harry Weatherly Conference Room.” And I said, “Oh, that’s just the Manager’s Conference Room,” and he was like “Okay, why didn’t they just say that then?” And can you guess where the Blanche C. Sterne Building is? No? Neither can I, and neither can some random citizen who needs to find Guilford County Social Services. But before they named that building it was always known as “the Maple Street building.” Guess what street that’s on. Right, Maple Street.

So those were some reasons why I made fun of the committee.

Of course, all my negative remarks were ones I made before the board of commissioners, with a single act, showed me — with great effect — the grave error of my ways.

I now want to say that, not only is the Guilford County Naming Committee not the worst idea in the history of Guilford County committees — strangely, it turns out that it is in fact the single most important and critical committee the county has ever formed, and, when I wrote otherwise in the past, I was just dead wrong. Scott Yost regrets the error.

The committee is doing key and critical work that benefits the community immensely. God bless the vital, wise and highly thoughtful naming committee and all of the important work it does for this county.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a chair I need to go sit in.

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