DAVIDSON COUNTY — The Davidson County Board of Commissioners voted that taxpayer dollars would not be used to pay an entry fee for commissioners to participate in the Thomasville Christmas Parade.

County Manager Casey Smith said the event, hosted by Thomasville Tourism, switched to a pay model across the board in 2019 after previously granting local elected officials the opportunity to be in the parade for free. Smith acknowledged that Chairwoman Karen Watford expressed concern over commissioners participating in the parade with the county covering the $35 entry fee to enter the parade. Those concerns come amid the backdrop of a looming primary that will officially take place March 8.

Campaign signs are already appearing throughout the county and candidates have taken to social media to begin stumping for votes.

“During a political season, it kind of can be perceived as using it to further a campaign,” Smith said. “These entry fees have not been part of [the parade] until recently. They didn’t charge anything. We did pay for some in 2018 and probably should have had this conversation then. The item is on the agenda for the board to kind of render a decision to help staff out here. Staff wasn’t comfortable with processing fees without approval from the board.”

Smith said he and County Attorney Chuck Frye attempted to determine a definition for political event and whether a parade would fall into that category. He said that they were unable to find a reputable source that would render a definitive judgment on whether the parade could be considered a political event by legal definition.

Smith said he did not consider it a political event, but stated in his opinion that he was unqualified to render such a decision.

“I think if you’re handing out paraphernalia from your campaign, yes, you probably crossed a line,” Smith said. “That’s why the item is on the agenda tonight.”

Commissioner Chris Elliott spoke in opposition to a charge being associated with participation in a parade by an elected official. He explained that if the possibility exists for such a charge to be rendered, there may be something more to the agenda of parade organizers.

“It’s a straight, 100% disrespect for the board,” Elliott said. “It used to be, up until 2019, that public servants and elected officials were honored at an event like this because they serve communities ... until we disagree on whether something [a Confederate statue] should stay on Main Street or not, and we end up infighting toward one another. The city of Lexington doesn’t want a county commissioner to be in a parade, or maybe Thomasville doesn’t want this, and then we become infighting and the next thing you know, we don’t want our elected officials in a parade anymore.”

Watford said she does not feel disrespected and said she thinks the policy was not instituted in a spirit of disrespect. Ellliott maintained that political motivation could be behind it.

“If Gov. (Roy) Cooper showed up, would they charge him? No,” Elliott said. “They’d put him right at the front and march his butt down Main Street. If Biden showed up, they’d march his butt down Main Street. But if a county commissioner shows up, you’ve got to pay or you’ve got to go home.”

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.