We know where we are. But how did we get here?

After stalking and bullying Josh’s Farmers Market for months to force its closure as a temporary business, we’ve discovered that the town’s planning director, Danny Wilson, who’s the face of the town’s strong-arming of the market, is a liar. 

That’s where we are.

People have picked sides. A few people continue standing firm in their convictions that the market has had plenty of time to build permanently and “doesn’t follow the rules.” One or two have pointed a finger at the messenger, calling me “biased” (yawn). But the large majority of the town has staunchly stood in support of Josh’s Farmers Market, which has served our town for years longer than many (if not most) current government officials knew Mooresville was a place on the map. And some might have still been in diapers. 

But how did we get here? How did I go from naively asking a couple simple questions of town officials last October to where we are today?

It’s worth a look back, especially for those of you who found us in the middle of this story. (PS Good to have y’all.) 

To be honest, I started out on the other side of this issue. While I’ve always been a fan of Josh’s Farmers Market, I regularly speak with a lot of town officials — some of whom I consider … or considered — friends. I heard all the stories about how the town bent over backwards to help the market’s owner, Josh Graham, and how he dug his heels in and did what he wanted, no matter what the town tried to have him do. 

I believed that narrative and had no particular interest in looking further into it. Covering local government has always been a passion of mine and a service that I’ve felt honored to be able to provide our community. At the same time, I’ll admit it takes a lot to persuade me to cover a story when I know it will take substantial time away from my family and the work that pays my bills. 

Then Oct. 15 happened. I found it curious that the Town of Mooresville — as a government — would take to its Facebook page to preemptively defend itself against taking steps to force the market’s closure. Or, more plainly: Local government took to the people’s Facebook page to launch an attack against a small, local business. 

The provided reason: “To get our side of the story out.” 

The words “our side” were off-putting to me. Why would the government have a “side” against a small, local business?

But when the town publicly offered its side without any indication of Graham’s “side,” I, of course, became interested in that side. 

So I asked. And to hear Graham tell it, we spoke on the phone for six hours over two days, with him filling me in on all the nitty-gritty details. At the end, he asked me: “Okay, now what are you gonna do with all that information?” 

My reply: “I’ll take it to the town folks to get their response.” I told him that I would dig to find the facts myself and promised that if I discovered that the facts aligned with what he was telling me, I would cover the story and wouldn’t stop digging until I got to the bottom of one question: Why? 

It turns out that it would be public officials’ emails — hundreds of them — that would paint the most accurate and detailed picture of what had been going on … and how personal this fight had become before the town decided to bully a small, local business in the public eye. Town managers, the mayor, planners and the public information officer were all involved — commissioners were included later — and they were all fully aware that what they were about to do would upset the citizenry: the people who pay staff’s salaries and elect the mayor and commissioners to office.

I read how the Oct. 15 Facebook post was planned and pored over by multiple town employees. I started questioning in my mind the number of hours and resources those town staff members spent on this smear campaign against a local business while we, the taxpayers — most of us admitted fans of the market — were footing the bill. 

Since receiving those records in a public records request, I have allowed the emails to speak for public officials because, frankly, a picture was emerging that showed I had previously been sold somewhat of a bill of goods from town officials about Josh Graham. 

Let me be clear: Josh Graham isn’t perfect, and he has not once ever indicated to me that he thinks he is — quite the opposite, actually. Much unlike the Town of Mooresville, Graham has been quick to own up to his shortcomings and mistakes in this process and to share what he would do differently if he could start over.

Maybe, I started realizing, Graham isn’t just a hot-headed business owner throwing a temper tantrum, after all. After numerous conversations with Graham, in fact, I started seeing a simple, honest, hard-working Mooresville boy who just wanted to work and — like countless others — knew nothing about the structure and processes of local government or a 500-page Unified Development Ordinance or that his business had been written out of it by a bunch of shiny-shoe government planners sitting in air-conditioned offices.

However, it never left my conscience that this same guy knew he was operating with an expired license, and while it caused him anxiety because this is his livelihood and that of several others, he was still operating “illegally” in town. And that was a sticking point for me. 

But then I started noticing the details of the story that the town conveniently left out. For instance, while government officials said they gave Graham plenty of time to build his permanent market, they didn’t divulge that six months of the 12-month temporary permit they gave him were wrapped up in a town-required traffic impact analysis (TIA) for Graham to move .8 of a mile down the road. All permitting had to stop during that time, per the town, so — intentionally or not — the town set the market up to fail from the jump.

While the town repeatedly blames N.C. Department of Transportation for hold-ups on important projects, when Graham shared that NCDOT’s delay of the Williamson Road widening would cost him $500,000 that he would lose if he built now on his $800,000 piece of property at Williamson and Sundown Roads, the town shrugged and said not our problem. 

Town planners determined the market is a “retail sales establishment” and doesn’t fit under any of their other ordinances. They didn’t divulge that they had changed the ordinances last year and written the market’s long-standing business model out of them, forcing it, instead, into a “retail sales” box. 

Where ordinances were vague, town planners said they get to “interpret” them. To this day, they stand by the wording of their ordinances even while recently making substantial text amendments to them — ironically, many tightening areas of the ordinances that we and Graham’s lawyers have argued were vague — and trying to secretly move them through the necessary channels for approval. 

When Graham played by the rules, town planners moved the goalpost. Most recently they went so far as to severely limit the items that the market had carried under three identical, previously approved permits. And though we didn’t know it at the time, Planning Director Wilson was also secretly filing a complaint with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, apparently hoping that the agency would shut down the market’s ability to sell meats like its “JFM Seafood.” 

That inspection would go nowhere, but it was just one more example of how far our local government — funded by our tax dollars — would go to shut down something that the people are saying they want to keep. Wilson, the planner, said he didn’t complain about the market to the state. Our last article — again using public records to find the truth — showed that Wilson lied.

With all this actual information — not he-said-she-said — in hand, you can bet I’ve picked a side. I’ve also watched as a few elected officials have changed their positions, too. Commissioner Eddie Dingler has championed a compromise for months, and other commissioners have recently joined him in publicly asking staff for a solution. 

How did staff respond? By stalking the market from a nearby parking lot the day before it was even open in its new location. The town has since sent a notice of violation to Graham and the landowner of 630 Brawley School Road because of a wooden (not-for-sale) swing on the property and for freshening up the existing gravel space with — get this — gravel. 

What we’ve watched is a local government that had plenty of options to help a local, loved business instead dig its heels in to force it to close, even going against its own ordinances. The facts show that it’s not Graham who is refusing to budge; it’s the town. 

Our government has treated us, the people, like we’re peasants and they’re the crown when nothing could be further from the truth. Many of you have reached out over the months asking for clarification about the difference between town staff and the town board. I’ll get to that in a second, but here’s the most important takeaway: If you pay taxes and can vote in Mooresville, YOU are the boss. You’re the CEO. You elect the mayor and commissioners who sit on the town board — you’ll have another chance to do that in just a few months — and it’s their role to do our bidding for us. We should be able to trust them to do that. If not, we have the opportunity to fire them. It comes up every four years for commissioners and every two for the mayor. 

Those board members can hire and fire only three people: the town manager — in this case Randy Hemann — the town attorney and the town clerk. The board cannot hire or fire other staff members; that’s Hemann’s job. 

Town staff is everyone who is under Hemann, including department heads and staff from planning, engineering, police, fire, utilities etc. We don’t vote for the town manager; the town board hired him and can fire him if a majority of the board — four commissioners or three commissioners and the mayor as a tiebreaker — agree that’s necessary. 

 I think we have staff members who should lose their jobs over this situation, but I hate we’re here, and I’m not celebrating it. In fact, I’m repulsed by the time, energy and resources that our town’s staff has wasted on targeting and bullying a local business. I am sick that a local business has suffered, that the family who owns it has suffered, that its vendors have suffered, that its employees have suffered and that its hosting property owners have suffered under the pressure of a local-government-gone-rogue — a complete circus.

I hope that the commissioners who are standing with Dingler continue doing so, maybe now more than ever, and I hope that the town — even if it requires a change in leadership — will find a way to stop this madness and will work with the market to keep it open until it can establish permanent roots because, as much as we appreciate the sentiment of people in multiple other counties offering their space to Josh’s Farmers Market, we ain’t lettin’ it go nowhere.


30 thoughts on “We know where we are. But how did we get here?

  1. Great Article , Thank You for writing it , sharing all the facts , I am praying daily that the town will find a solution for Josh’ Farmer’s Market to remain here in our City , it is of great value to the community , Everyone loves it , people come from afar an while they are here , they spend money elsewhere too. Josh and Crew Have much Love for this town , they cherish each person they wait on and it shows , everyone there treats you like family in a Small Home Town atmosphere , Please look at all your options to help keep Josh’s Farmers Market in our Town , He is a staple here and has been for decades , we would appreciate if you town members could work with him , I frequently Josh’s weekly but I also go to Shop and Save , to Harris Teeter , to Publix , To Barcelona’s, Buckos,Village Pizza Inn and I could go on and on , The Market has great produce , certain home jam , jellies , honey an such , but they supply different goods than your regular store , for instance , Nobody has better meats , than Eddie Dingler at Shop and Save ( Best Gas and Butcher shop around Mooresville , so I do not think Josh is hurting anyone , he is just bringing that certain Family type , Farmer Feel with his Fresh produce and locally grown in NC , SC, and GA , you cannot put a price on that , it is just not replaceable to have that feeling here in our Mooresville Town and it would be such a shame to lose it .

    1. Unfortunately, my wife and I live outside the City and therefore can not vote. We LOVE JFM and we strike a blow for freedom by regularly shopping there. What I think would be helpful is the date of the upcoming election and a list of names indicating who specifically is for or against JFM. For those who are against, who is running against them that is for JFM. While not particularly rich, I’m more than willing to financially contribute to a campaign that supports my interests. I’m betting others are willing to contribute also.

      1. Like you, Mr. Temple, I am not able to vote in the Mooresville election because our home sits between land parcels that are part of the Town of Mooresville. I am limited in my ability to go inside retail stores because I am immunocompromised. Therfore, outdoor markets are a socail treat to attend for me. I have soured strongly on the Town of Mooresville elected officials and their subsequent hiring selection for local management. I would also like to know who supports Josh’s Farmers market and who is fighting against JFM anso that I can financially contribute to elect officials who speak FOR Mooresville Residents. Herman and Atkins clearly do NOT represnt the voices of Mooresville Residents and should not be re-elected. Dingler seems interested in being supportive of local Residents but his voting track record should be followed. Other office officials will need to prove themselves worthy of re-election before I consider any financial contribution to their re-election.

    2. It is quite a shame. Local government, like HOA’s, get into their little ‘Fiefdom’. They crave power and control. IMHO, what’s wrong with a Farmer’s Market? What was wrong with it at the YMCA? The answer of course is NOTHING !!! What’s really wrong is all of our local towns are approving numerous projects with no infrastructure in place. That is more of a problem.

  2. Great article. It’s a shame that a small locally owned business gets pushed around. And the city let’s large builders do as they please.

    1. I left Mooresville many years ago for the corruption. Come on out here to Statesville would gladly have you, West Iredell as a matter of fact.

  3. The answer is simple , if enough people will go and vote to get new board members or mayor the answer is solved. Start at the top and fire the city manager and hire a new one that will work for the people of this great town . Of course the city manager could terminate the planning director. There is at least 4 who apparently will not help Eddie.
    My question is why does he keep an employee who will lie? How many other businesses and people have been screwed by the planning and zoning board?
    Just remember to get registered to vote in the election if you live in the city limits . If you don’t tell your friends who do to vote. You can register to vote by calling the election board in Statesville and they will send you a form or you can go to either branch of the Mooresville Library. Should you go to the library on Brawley School road look around most likely will see a member of the planning department there taking pictures. Then you can walk next door to JFM and meet and talk to a business operated by a great man and his staff.

    1. Well said Frank. Too much time and money has been spent fighting JFM when that same time and money could be better spent developming infrastructure to support the uncontrolled overgrowth in Mooresville. A building moratorium in Mooresville and surrounding parcels is grossly over due. Leave JFM alone. Mooresville Residents love & support JFM.

  4. The answer is simple , if enough people will go and vote to get new board members or mayor the answer is solved. Start at the top and fire the city manager and hire a new one that will work for the people of this great town . Of course the city manager could terminate the planning director. There is at least 4 who apparently will not help Eddie.
    My question is why does he keep an employee who will lie? How many other businesses and people have been screwed by the planning and zoning board?
    Just remember to get registered to vote in the election if you live in the city limits . If you don’t tell your friends who do to vote. You can register to vote by calling the election board in Statesville and they will send you a form or you can go to either branch of the Mooresville Library. Should you go to the library on Brawley School road look around most likely will see a member of the planning department there taking pictures. Then you can walk next door to JFM and meet and talk to a business operated by a great man and his staff.

  5. The town commissioners need to step up and fire the town manager and back off of Josh’s Market. Maybe you could send your findings to Good Morning America. They could see what happens to small town government that lies, lies to the people who pays their salaries. Josh’s Market should have been “grandfathered in” a long time ago! They should do that now!!!!

  6. I believe there is a more personal underlying reason(with someone connected to the town) causing this problem. The truth will come out and a lot of people will be surprised. This is just my opinion.

  7. Great article!! Appreciate you putting all the details together. I can’t wait for this to go to court to further embarrass rogue government officials, which will follow their professional careers forever!! They didn’t think that JFM would be hard to run out of business but right does prevail over wrong in legal issues!! Payback is coming!!

  8. Thank you for publishing this article. I grew up in Mooresville and it was never like this. I don’t like how our town has been torn apart for all the development these clowns have brought into our town. There’s a lot going on that they are hiding and those running the town need to be replaced. Josh’s is the only place here where you can get great items all the time. We need that rather than shipping products across the US and aren’t good when they arrive in grocery stores.

  9. Great article, this is what true journalism looks like !!! The end game, is that, voting matters. This is how we make changes.

  10. Thanks for your publishing of your research on the “Battle with Josh’s Market”!! I have been a fan and customer of Josh’s since we moved here about the same time he opened his market on his grandparents’ land on Williamson Road. I remember very vividly that Josh personally carried my produce to my car, when I as a senior citizen had a hard time walking on the uneven ground, Josh commenting, “You remind me of my Gramma!” To this day, I can’t wait until Josh’s is open so I can go buy local produce! I need help getting to my car more than ever, and the caring staff help deliver my produce to my car. And the times I run into Josh working at the market himself, he always greets me with a smile. A few weeks ago, I asked Josh about his path with the City, and he very patiently said, “We lost a battle again yesterday, but we are not giving up!” Go gettum’, Josh! We love you and need your business in Mooresville, an important part of the “small-town atmosphere” we chose, when we chose to retire in Mooresville!

  11. Thank you for publishing the truth! I bought tomatoes from Josh when he was a little boy. I have lived here for nearly 50 years! I back Josh’s Market All the way!
    The “powers that be” in Mooresville should be ashamed of their actions. All seem to be money hungry…approving all these apartments and housing but not allowing infrastructure to take place!
    This sweet little southern town isn’t a nice place anymore!

    1. The Town does not prevent infrastructure from being constructed. Town leadership has done a fantastic job of funding and anticipating growth. Most of the current apartment building construction was approved before the UDO was adopted. All of this information is publicly available if you get involved.

  12. How can these emails from the town officials be made public for the entire area to view so everyone can make their own mind up about the officials and the job they aren’t doing for the people of Mooresville? Is this something that can easily be done?

    Is this a behavior something that they would be proud of displaying? I don’t think so! If it is, then they definitely don’t need to be leading anybody, mush less a town that votes them into office! If they are not proud of the behavior, they either need to leave Josh alone and apologize at a minimum, or resign and know they failed this town and it’s voters.

    We all know you can’t trust most government officials. They all get a little power and want to display that power to everyone they know. They want to be the ones that make a “mark” for their time in office. I guess Dany Wilson, and the rest of the Mooresville Town officials have definitely made their impression for the voters of Mooresville. There must be support for this local business and drive the officials out of office.

    At this point it’s not about the local market at all! It’s the fact that they are harassing a local business, lying to the public, and misleading everyone that will listen to “their side” of a situation that they have created. Which one of our local businesses will the Town attack next? Everyone of the Mooresville people that feel strongly about this must start writing letters and attending meeting until they are GONE from local government.

    1. Well said Charles. Give someone a little power and they over step their boundaries when they fail to realize WHO put them in their position of power. Miles Atkins, Randy Herman, Danny Wilson must GO. NOT truthworthy in any manner, shape or form.

    2. Most of the documents are publicly available if you look. The Town’s website has links to all the agendas and supporting documents and they have a YouTube channel that publishes all of their meetings.

  13. Thank you for being a journalist that does the work to give both sides. Obviously, city officials don’t want to keep a small town, small.

    And even though I believe in growth, it shouldn’t be on the backs of the small business owners that pioneered here first.

    If the market needs the backing of the people, I think Josh will find he has it. Besides voting new officials in, count on me to keep shopping there!

  14. Thank you for putting this information out there. Having been in Planning and Community Development for many years up north, what Mooresville is doing down here seems to be illegal. Does Mooresville have a Master Plan which would outline future development? and if not it appears they are specifically targeting Josh’s. I would think a lawsuit would be in order at this point.

    I hope everyone takes note of who is in office and votes them out regardless of how this turns out. Mooresville is a good town and they are not worthy of running it.

    1. Yes, Mooresville has a master plan and the UDO was adopted because it was consistent with the MP. Please educate yourself before interjecting your opinion.

      1. So why did they leave out Josh’s Farmers Market? He had been in a location for many years, he was ousted by a greedy family member but he had filed for a location. They gave him a permit but then continued to change their rules. He has tried to move to a stand alone location. He admits he did not know all details of the permits but he has certainly tried to work with the town. The town is not really trying to work with him. I hope the people of the town have their last word and the town employees soon learn who pays their paycheck!!

  15. Jamie @ Mooresvillescoop, I appreciate all you have done in exposing the truth on both sides here.

    I look forward to the next issue of how the corrupt Mooresville Town has tried to put JFM out of business this week.

    You are truly helping your community fight corrupt government.

  16. This is propaganda. It is not difficult to establish a business in Mooresville. Trust me, every business owner would love to operate illegally and avoid the costs of opening a legal business but that’s not how it works. State, County, and local laws and ordinances are clear about the processes. Is Mooresville’s UDO perfect? No, but it is consistent with the One Mooresville plan, county, and state laws and regulations. People need to get involved before they complain. Mooresville is destined for great things and JFM can grow into a local retail staple if they follow the law.

    1. The town board kept changing the rules of the law. State the laws, allow Josh to abide by them and stop constant harassment. That is not what government is paid to do.

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About Author

Hi! I’m Jaime

I was a newspaper reporter in Mooresville, NC for a decade and covered local government issues from 2003 to 2006.


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