High crimes and misdemeanors, vote rigging, bribes and corruption were buzz words that dominated the 2020 news cycle revolving around federal level politics. Sadly, those same words can be bestowed upon some of our very own elected officials here in Meade County, as well.
A few days before Christmas, Judge/Executive Leslie Stith and Sheriff Phillip Wimpee were caught red handed in a corrupt scheme of bribery in an attempt to rig a vote in our very own courthouse. In fact, Sheriff Wimpee was photographed handing envelopes to three judges, trying to sway them to his side. This reporter was given one of those envelopes and can verify that it was in fact a bribe. Judge Stith was also witnessed “stealing” a cookie platter out of Nucor General Manager Jonny Jacobs’ hands and attempted to use it to bribe the votes to his side. It was truly politics at its worst.
So how did I stumble into this despicable behavior by our elected officials? Actually, it was Judge Stith who had invited me to the courthouse that day along with local radio talk show host Randy Johnson and Chamber of Commerce Director Annie Hamilton. Stith had challenged everyone in the courthouse to a Christmas door decorating contest and had asked the three of us to choose a winner. He said Wimpee had accepted the challenge despite reservations of the Judge possibly rigging the contest in his favor.
In all honesty, it was a great way to kick off the week of Christmas and step back from news and politics while embracing the Christmas spirit. With most every office in the courthouse along with the Recycling Center participating, it was hard to pick a winner. The only losers were the citizens of Meade County who couldn’t enjoy the showcase of creativity displayed by each office due to COVID-19.
The Recycling Center had the most creative incorporation of their department into their exhibit. Their tree was made completely of recyclables, with “presents” made by their bailing machine. I was especially fond of their use of the Meade County Messenger banner from one of our newspapers as a decoration on their tree. They ultimately lost the competition by one vote to the Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s door was a fireplace and mantle complete with an animatronic lower half of Santa trying to go up the chimney. After accusations by Judge Stith of Sheriff Wimpee using “hot” items to decorate the door and seeing the contents of my bribe envelope, I am kind of wishing I cold recast my vote. Though the MCSO pencil, sheriff’s badge sticker and personalized note were nice, I am having trouble finding a pencil sharpener. Being the first political bribe I’ve ever received, I was hoping it would be something more along the lines of a “get out of jail free” card or “drive a cruiser for a day” pass. Live and learn, I guess.
Dispatch’s door came in third, but in hindsight probably deserved to be higher. On top of their handcrafted door decorations that looked amazing, they also had Santa show up in person along with festive Christmas music playing when we walked up to judge their door.
It was good fun for all involved. Randy Johnson and I even survived the ordeal walking side by side without ending up in need of our significant others bailing us out of the detention center. That may come as a surprise to any of you who have followed the two of us over the last year, as we have found ourselves on opposite sides of a few hot button topics from time to time. We had a conversation at the end of the door judging which is one of the main reasons I am writing this. I would like to think, or at least hope, that the county is better off having people writing and discussing on air the issues going on that affect us all.
A great friend of mine likes to say, “75 percent of the time at least 75 percent of us agree.” It is a simple statement, but one that would do us all good to reflect further on. May we all take a deep breath in 2021 and remember that when you take out political parties and hot button issues that we cannot change, the vast majority of us agree on most things. I deeply miss the days when we could take the time to laugh at each other and ourselves, instead of being so serious and offended all the dang time. Hopefully, that sunk in if you jumped into this article looking for hot gossip, only to find tongue in cheek satire playing out before your eyes.