Matthews commissioners recently approved by-laws for a new Veteran Affairs Committee, a town advisory committee to recognize and promote a strong relationship between the town and service members, veterans, and their families.
Matthews town manager Hazen Blodgett said the idea came from board discussions.
“This idea was brought to us by the board of commissioners. We all immediately recognized how important veterans are to our community and we wanted to make sure that they were engaged and their voices were heard,” Blodgett said.
The Veterans Affairs Committee will be the centralized point of contact for veterans and their families to bring matters of interest to the attention of the town. It will advise commissioners and help plan activities related to patriotic holidays, ceremonies and other special events.
The committee also will advise the board on ways to increase the participation and effectiveness of veterans in local government.
Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said the committee is definitely needed.
“I think it’s a committee that’s way overdue in Matthews. We have great relationships with the VFW in Indian Trail and the American Legion in Matthews,” Taylor said. “We work together with these groups on projects throughout the year. I think this is a way to bring everyone under one umbrella and make it a more valuable service to area veterans.”
The committee will be made of up five to 11 members, appointed by the commissioners. Terms will be two years, and members can serve an unlimited number of terms.
Once appointed, committee members will elect their own officers. A town staff member will serve as a nonvoting liaison.
Matthews Commissioner and Army veteran George Fossett said he sees the new committee stretching beyond the Matthews border.
“I am an Army veteran and I feel it is still my duty to ensure that veterans are treated fairly,” Fossett said. “There are between 140,000 and 150,000 veterans in the Mecklenburg County area, the ninth largest concentration in the country. A large percentage of our homeless population is veterans.
“There are a number of organizations out there that can help, but the veterans don’t know about them. I see this committee as a focal point where folks can come and be pointed to the help that they need.”
Town staff is currently taking applications for the committee, and commissioners are expected to appoint members at their Dec. 14 meeting. The first meeting will take place in January 2016 and should continue on a monthly basis.