Democrats take control of Polk County board

Published 1:42 pm Monday, December 1, 2008

Republicans have had control of the board of commissioners for close to two decades. This year is perhaps the first that Democrats have full control of the Polk board since Polk County has had five commissioners. For many years, the county was served with only three commissioners.

During the 2006 election, two Democrats won ‐ Tommy Melton and Warren Watson ‐ bringing the Democrats closer than they&squo;d been in a long time in Polk County to having control of the board. For several years in the 1990s, commissioner Benny Smith was the lone Democrat on the board.

Leaving office tonight will be three Republicans; Ted Owens and Tom Pack, who were defeated last month, and Harry Denton, who was defeated in the primary.

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Tonight&squo;s board of commissioners meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Womack building. The current board will start the meeting, and the new board will be sworn into office partway through the meeting and will then take over the remainder of the meeting.

&dquo;It has been a honor and privilege to serve as a commissioner,&dquo; Pack says. &dquo;We have moved the county forward without adding financial burdens on the citizens of Polk County. We are also leaving the county in better financial shape than when we came into office. I believe that the citizens that have kept up with the county business know and understand what we have accomplished.&dquo;

Departing commissioner Ted Owens said during this Thanksgiving season his thoughts have turned to the many blessings God has granted him, one of which is to have been born and to live&bsp; Polk County.

&dquo;This is a privilege I cherish and the reason I ran for public office back in 1977 for the office of mayor of Columbus and every time I ran going forth was&bsp; because of my strong belief that one should give back to the community in which one lives and to do his utmost to make every effort to help make life better for his fellowman,&dquo; Owens says. &dquo;I thank God that He and the voters have given me the honor of serving the citizens of this county in the distinguished office of county commissioner. I have strived to serve them to the best of my ability both here and when I went to Raleigh to plead their cause.

&dquo;To the new board I wish them well. I know they can be successful if they seek and follow the leadership and advice of our creator who instituted government.&dquo;

Newly elected McDermott, who was the second highest vote getter in November, says she looks forward to working very hard to keep Polk County rural and beautiful and to being a better steward of the county&squo;s assets, both its monetary assets and its buildings and land.

&dquo;As a group, we want to be more deliberative,&dquo; says McDermott. &dquo;We want to avoid seat-of-the-pants, ad hoc decisions, and have more well-thought-out and better studied decisions.

&dquo;I especially want to reach out to those townships where I was behind in the voting, and show that I really do care about them.&bsp; I want to learn more from people who did not vote for me, what they want and, as importantly, what they don&squo;t want, for Polk County. Paraphrasing Barack Obama, given the challenges we face, financial and otherwise, we will all have to pull together and not fall back on the partisanship and pettiness that has tainted our politics in the past.&dquo;

Other commissioners did not respond to a request for comments before press time.

The new board will take over tonight just over a week after Owens, who lost the election to Gasperson by just six votes, filed a protest against the election results. The Polk County Board of Elections denied the protest after holding a public hearing about a week ago.

The results were protested after a confusing election night when both the Polk County Republican and Democratic headquarters reported that Democrats won all three of the commissioner seats, then the board of elections reported unofficially that Owens was the second highest vote getter and Gasperson came in last. Later on election night, the results changed slightly, but Owens was still a winner. The next morning, after elections office software was found to have a glitch and results were rechecked, the three Democrats had won.