By Editorial Board
Robin Parrilla’s reappointment as Stowe board president creates a welcome opportunity for feuding commissioners to bury the hatchet and return their focus to improving the ailing community.
For much of 2021, township meetings were consumed by petty disputes that detracted from the commissioners’ responsibility to their residents. These five life-long area residents each bring something unique to the table; if they could move past their differences, they could do extraordinary things for a town that’s brimming with potential.
We know that each elected official brings their own level of expertise to the equation, and each deeply cares about the community they govern. But, unfortunately, this doesn’t shield them from politicking and personal agendas.
Anyone who regularly attends the board’s monthly meetings knows that the feud between President Robin Parrilla and Commissioner Cheryl McDermott is anything but private. It was on display again during their Jan. 6 reorganization meeting, where McDermott was the only commissioner not to support Parrilla’s presidential bid.
This hasn’t always been the case. In fact, McDermott voted previously to appoint Parrilla president.
While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what started the feud between the two commissioners, it grew increasingly evident after Parrilla moved to remove McDermott from chair of public works, a committee she has served on for more than a decade, in June 2021. Parrilla explained that the action was necessary because of mistakes made by McDermott in the past as chair, but McDermott was convinced that it was political retaliation for not supporting Parrilla and Vice President Darrell Chestnutt’s re-election efforts during the primary election.
McDermott also believes her public support for Jeffrey Paul, a township resident who ran as a write-in candidate for one of the two seats occupied by Parrilla and Chestnutt, played a role in her removal from chair of public works. However, Parrilla maintains his action was nonpolitical and not personal, but one that had been “creeping up” on the board for some time.
Aside from increased tension and minor disputes, the appearance of political antics seemed to momentarily die down after Parrilla and Chestnutt secured their victories during the primaries.
The moment didn’t last long. As the general election neared, township residents received a letter in the mail pointing out delinquent taxes on the part of Parrilla, dating back nearly a decade. In total, he owes more than $30,000 in unpaid school, local, and county taxes.
From there, resident Ron Gallagher brought Parrilla’s delinquent taxes to the attention of the Stowe commissioners during the October meeting in hopes that Gazette 2.0 or another news source would publish an article on the topic before the general election. Not wanting to play into the township politics obviously on display, we held off on the article until after the election, agreeing that a story about a sitting board president with unpaid taxes does not lose its relevance.
Both write-in candidate Paul and School Director Tyler Kochirka addressed the board in November, calling on them to not reappoint Parrilla as board president. Citing unpaid taxes, the pair suggested that Parrilla is not financially responsible enough or qualified to hold an executive position.
While Parrilla’s delinquent taxes are public information, the attempt to make his status known days before the election was an obvious attempt to hinder his re-election efforts. While Stowe faces a rise in violent crimes, board members had to spend time and energy addressing Parrilla’s tax situation.
Before nominating Parrilla for another term as president during their reorganization meeting, Commissioner Kelly Cropper-Hall recognized that her nomination may be seen as controversial by residents of the township. She’s probably right. McDermott – who opposed Parrilla’s bid – and the small chorus of residents banging the drum are not wrong to question whether someone who cannot pay his own taxes should be directing the spending of other residents’ contributions.
But in any case, Cropper-Hall and a majority of her colleagues put their faith in Parrilla for another term, and the only way forward now is to move beyond the petty disputes and work for the common good. They made this decision with full knowledge of the facts, and it’s time to consider the matter closed.
The board has shown that members can in fact work well together when not preoccupied by bickering. Throughout the past year alone, they have overseen multiple demolition projects, operated on a surplus and addressed many of the issues brought to their attention during monthly meetings. But things could clearly be better, if certain members were able to set their personal and political differences aside.
Disagreements are natural. Officials don’t even have to like each other – they just need to stay above trivial entanglements and put their duty to the greater good first. It’s all there in the oath of office.