McDermott, Walker end commission terms

Published 1:16pm Thursday, December 6, 2012

Editor’s Note: following are speeches given by outgoing Polk County Commissioners Renée McDermott and Cindy Walker during the county’s meeting Dec. 3. Both served four-year terms after being elected in 2008. McDermott failed to retain her seat in November’s election and Walker chose not to seek re-election this year.

Cindy Walker

“Franklin D. Roosevelt’s advice to his son was ‘be sincere; be brief; be seated.’

I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the board of commissioners for the last four years. I want to thank the staff, employees, department heads, clerks, county manager and attorney for all of your help over the last four years.

I also want to thank our community of volunteers that serve on our various boards.

I am grateful for the encouragement and support from members of the community-you know who you are.

Renée and Ray (Gasperson)- I love ya like a sister and brother, it has been an honor and privilege to serve with you.

Tom (Pack) and Ted (Owens) I’ve learned a lot and I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve struggled some.

Tom, Ted, Michael (Gage), Keith (Holbert) and Ray I wish you the best for your new board.

I hope that your discussions will be civil, your audience kind and your decisions sound. Best of luck.”

Renée McDermott

“I join in commissioner Walker’s appreciation of employees, clerks, volunteers, the community and fellow commissioners.

Our majority these past four years on the board of commissioners has had a good run.

We took major steps to keep Polk County rural and beautiful. We enacted a new subdivision ordinance, which gives citizens the right to comment on major, sensitive subdivision applications. We’ve never had that before in Polk County, and it gives citizens and important new voice.

We strongly supported the Agricultural Economic Development program, to save Polk County’s farms and to bring more farms to Polk County. We ran county water to the ag center in Mill Spring, helping to make the center financially self-sufficient. All this has helped to keep Polk County rural and increase the number of jobs.

We made Polk County government more open. Many more county documents are on the internet. And our board of commissioners agendas and board packets are posted on the internet before our meetings.

We didn’t make decisions in secret; we discussed the issues in public, for all to hear. We rarely had closed session meetings, only when absolutely necessary. Former boards had held closed sessions at nearly every board of commissioners meeting, sometimes spending even more time in the closed session than in the public session. Our board stopped that.

We completed the new building for the Meeting Place and created and entirely new adult day health care facility. That means so much for the folks who use the adult day health care center and for their home caregivers, giving them respite and important time for themselves.

And we built the new Howard Greene Human Services building.

Along with all this, and during the Great Recession, we brought Polk County’s debt down from $20 million to $11.5 million, an approximate 40 percent reduction.

We strongly supported the excellent Polk County Schools, making up for unwise education budget cuts in the North Carolina Legislature. We saved the Polk County Preschool program when the Legislature withheld funding.

The re-organization of the economic development office has resulted in more jobs in Polk County, including textile manufacturing jobs at Carolina Yarn Product. We arranged for hiring an experienced, trained economic development director, and that has paid off well.

When Green River Adventures wanted to expand, we were there to help. I proposed amendments to our ordinances that would allow “nature-oriented non-motorized outdoor recreation,” uses compatible with the beauty of the mountains. In record time, the planning board and commissioners unanimously adopted that plan.

In the past year, our economic development office and the North Carolina Department of Commerce have documented more than 100 new businesses opening in Polk County. I fully expect what we put in place to continue with such successes n the future.

Overall, our board fostered good, open, clean, stable county government, keeping debt down and taxes low, even during very challenging economic times.

When I was 19 years old, and had just graduated from college, I came across the following motto. I have since tried to live by it, including during my time as a Polk County Commissioner. Here is what it says:

‘I expect to pass this way but once;

any good therefore that I can do,

or any kindness that I can show to

any fellow creature, let me do it now.

Let me no defer or neglect it,

For I shall not pass this way again.’

-       Etienne De Greliet

I will continue to strive to live by that motto, and I will strive to continue to serve Polk County and its people.”

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