ometimes people do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do.
However, in these cynical times, particularly when it’s someone running in political circles who does the right thing, the hunt immediately begins for an ulterior motive.
So it was last week when word came down that Tom Apodaca had stepped down from the Western Carolina University Board of Trustees.
Apodaca is a 1980 WCU grad and was a Republican state senator from Hendersonville who rose to chair the power Rules Committee. He was a driving force behind NC Promise, which lowered in-state tuition at WCU to $500 a semester, and was influential in getting badly-needed funding directed to Cullowhee. He previously had served on the WCU board from 1997 to 2002 before his reappointment to the board five months ago.
Apodaca is well liked at his alma mater, to the point the new science building that’s going up will bear his name.
He said he was stepping off the board to focus on the workload of his job as a lobbyist representing clients including beer and wine wholesalers. That line of work saw Apodaca recuse himself from a board vote in July regarding beer and wine sales in part of Whitmire Stadium.
He said because of potential conflicts of interest such as that, and because the university deserved someone who could fully focus on being a trustee, he was departing in the best interests of the university.
In other words, he was doing the right thing. Story over.
Shortly after Apodaca’s move, Harry Smith, who was named chairman of the UNC system Board of Governors in May 2018, announced he was headed for the exit as well. Smith’s term wasn’t set to end until 2021.
A lot of armchair analysts put 2+2 together and surmised Apodaca was headed for a seat on the UNC Board, presumably knowing a slot was opening up when he stepped off the Cullowhee board.
The topic was in fact broached in conversation between Apodaca and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. Apodaca says he wasn’t offered the seat and made clear he wasn’t interested.
We’ll throw our two bits in on the situation: Again, this is our take, not Apodaca’s – the WCU grad is wise to stay away from the board, because it’s a hot mess.
The track record of the past few years is dismal, with the firing of UNC President Tom Ross, micromanaging and hectoring UNC President Margaret Spellings and UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt out the door, the fiasco in the initial search to replace late WCU Chancellor David Belcher and the recent resignation of East Carolina University interim chancellor Dan Gerlach. Not to mention the downright epic mishandling of the “Silent Sam’’ statue at UNC-Chapel Hill.
However, those reasons didn’t play into Apodaca’s decision to depart the WCU board, and steer clear of the UNC board.
“It was fair to WCU,’’ Apodaca said. “It needs somebody who can really participate on the board, so I thought stepping down was the best thing to do. I was spreading myself too thin, and that wasn’t fair to my clients, either. I thought I’d have more time to devote to it, but I didn’t.
“I love WCU, and believe me, there’s still purple in my veins.’’
Apodaca will continue to roll with the movers and shakers in Raleigh, and he’ll undoubtedly keep an eye out for WCU’s best interests.
In the meantime, he simply did the right thing. That’s refreshing, if all too rare these days.