Outgoing county commissioners say farewell

Published 1:56 pm Monday, December 8, 2008

&bsp;&bsp;Tom Pack, right, is recognized.Pack said it&39;s been a pleasure to serve and thanked the board of commissioners, clerk Anne Britton and all the county employees for their hard work. Owens began his comments by saying he only needed seven votes to stay, referring to his losing the election last month by six votes to incoming commissioner Ray Gasperson.

During citizen comments former county commissioner Jack Lingafelter stood to commend Denton on his years of service on the board of commissioners as well as on the county planning board. Lingafelter said Polk County is better off for Denton&squo;s service and he has every reason to be proud.

Following are the speeches made by outgoing commissioners Denton and Owens as well as a speech made by commissioner Tommy Melton, who stepped down as chairman Monday night. Melton also presented plaques to Denton, Owens and Pack for their service.

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Harry Denton

Nobody serves as a commissioner for the money, and definitely not for the praises; they are few and far between. However, you take an oath to serve all citizens of this great county, and I have been able to sleep well at night knowing I&squo;ve done everything I could to represent all Polk County citizens.

I&squo;ve been a commissioner for six years, and some of the accomplishments I&squo;m most proud of are the new library, new middle school, new transfer station, money in the bank. So many things had been let go because the board was paralyzed by infighting and political backstabbing. The board lost sight of what was important and lost it&squo;s ability to govern with reason and fairness. I saw myself as a mediator and doer, and wasn&squo;t afraid to make hard decisions. Again, I slept well knowing I did my best for all citizens.

I appreciate all the county employees for their hard work and dedication to their jobs. They serve well, and sometimes not under the best of circumstances, and they deserve a big pat on the back.

I wish our new board great success in moving our county forward.

There are great challenges and opportunities ahead of them, and I truly wish them well. Polk County deserves the best representation and government to help it meet its potential.

It has been my pleasure to serve the people of this great county.

Commissioner Ted Owens

God&squo;s holy word says there is a season and a time for everything.

It is time for me to give thanks. I thank God he has given me the opportunity to serve as mayor and commissioner. It has been an honor and privilege. I thank my wife for her support and keeping my feet on the ground especially when I might have been tempted to let these positions go to my head.

I thank those who attended the meetings in support of us and at the same token I thank those who were our adversaries- you challenged me to look at all sides of the issue and therefore be able to make better decisions. I thank the fine employees of Polk County for the services they provide our citizens.

I especially thank Sandra Hughes who attends every meeting and watches as we spend the taxpayers money. She sits straight faced and I can never read if it&squo;s a good decision or not. Anne (Britton), thank you. How would you like to have six bosses? Thank you for all the time you put in at these meetings and the almost impossible task of keeping all the motions straight.

Ryan (Whitson), thank you. You had five bosses. Thanks for standing up for what is best for Polk County. For your negotiation skill in getting Lake Adger for a water source for all the citizens of Polk County. No matter what you accomplish in the future this will be one of the most important and greatest. There are many more things I could mention ‐ but you didn&squo;t pay me enough.

I&squo;m thankful for the opportunity to serve on this board. Chairman Melton under your guidance you allowed for citizen input and you allowed for debate among the members of this board before we came to a decision. The majority of this board did not just rubber&bsp; stamp every issue that came before us. The majority of this board did not hold grudges; we voted and then moved on to the next item. Commissioner Pack it has been an honor to serve with you for the last four years. You have used your business experience and background to the benefit of the citizens of this county. You have been willing to ask the tough questions whether it was politically correct or not. You have served this county well.

Commissioner Watson you have also brought your business and professional ways to the board. We citizens that own Polk County property owe to you and commissioner Pack a debt of gratitude for the questions you raised during the reval process.

Leah (Justice), I thank you for being here and taking the time to report the results of this board&squo;s meetings so that the public might be informed even while you&squo;re young son, Luke is at home.

And again, I wish the new board well.

I will close with this: General Mac Author said, &dquo;that old soldiers never die, they just fade away.&dquo;

Ted Owens is telling you, &dquo;old politicians never die they just go to Hardees and if there is not a Hardees, they go to McDonald&squo;s&uot;

God bless Polk County and God bless America.


Tommy Melton

It was December 4th, 2006 when I took the oath of office to be a Polk County commissioner. That night I was extremely proud to take the oath of office and pledge that I would do everything possible to make Polk County the best place to live in this great country we call America.

I was elected the chairman, a responsibility that I was extremely proud of.

When I became the chairman I felt that the most important thing I could do was to allow the other four commissioners (commissioner Pack, commissioner Owens, commissioner Denton and commissioner Watson) to bring their expertise and visions of Polk County to the meetings. After all that&squo;s what they were elected to do. I always tried to remove &dquo;politics&dquo; from the board meetings. You may have been elected as a Republican or a Democrat, but when you took the oath of office you have now become an elected official for all the people of Polk County. It is my belief that when you allow &dquo;politics&dquo; to be a part of the meetings then you have &dquo;tainted&dquo; the meetings. I hope that the four commissioners sitting behind me agree that I have always believed that it took all five of us to do what was best for Polk County, it was never about &dquo;politics&dquo;.

Let me be the first to say it hasn&squo;t always been peaches and cream. If it was that easy then everyone would be doing it. As you all know &dquo;closed meetings&dquo; are just that ‐ closed. Let me tell you, some of those meetings were not peaches and cream, they were more like peaches and buttermilk. But this board was able to move past personal agendas and move on to do what was best for your county.

This board, with the great leadership of Cecil Cannon, took on the task of completing our greatest landmark and that being our courthouse. This board recognized that this landmark needed to be restored and now this magnificent building is standing proud for all the citizens to see. Allow me to say that our clerk, Charlene Owens, is back in the courthouse and court is being held there currently. We were able to partner with the Polk County Board of Education to create a building (the old Polk County Library) that now serves as the &dquo;Virtual Education Learning Center&dquo;. This allows our high school students to get a head start on college by coming to the Virtual Education building and start taking credited college courses through the internet, making the transition from high school to college much easier. I have always believed that the greatest investment we can make is to make that investment in our children.

This board recognized the need to move the Senior Center/ Meeting Place to a better location. That is going to be accomplished with the purchase of the Classical School property. Our seniors have given so much to all of us, now its time for us to give back to them. After all without them we would not be here and this county is blessed with so many wonderful and talented seniors. This board also recognized that social services needs a new facility, along with juvenile evaluation and veterans affairs. This board has purchased property and is looking at other locations to so that these very important agencies can be relocated so that they are able to serve our citizens. I would also like to point out that even with the purchase of the Classical School the county is less in debt than we were two years ago. New roofs have been put on seven county buildings.

This board has recognized the absolute need to protect our landscape and our farms. The citizens told this board (through a comprehensive survey) that they wanted Polk County to remain rural and to protect our farms, ridges and landscape. This board has followed the wishes of the people by hiring an independent firm to lead this county into developing a Comprehensive Land Use Plan. This board recognized the need to manage and control the growth in Polk County, thereby creating ordinances for major subdivisions and minor subdivisions.

I am proud to say this board has realized that one of our greatest assets in Polk County is our employees. We have chosen to employ a company that will look at what our employees are being paid, so that all of our employees receive a benefit package that is competitive with the surrounding counties. We cannot expect our employees to work for wages that are below scale.

There is a lot more this board has done, but it is now time to close and move on, but before I do there is one more thing I want to talk about. The decision to buy the water in Lake Adger, I consider to be the most important decision this board has made. I believe this decision will be recognized as the best decision we could have made in this century. Everyone is very much aware of the drought Polk County has had to endure for the last two years. We are still in a drought, wells have been reported to be going dry, some people have had to drill numerous times to find water, and some are just getting by. Had this board not moved forward to protect the water in Polk County, you can be assured that another county, city, or even another state would have come here and removed Polk County&squo;s water. Without water there is no life. This board began to lay water lines in the southern area of Polk County and there are plans underway to bring those lines north so that we are able to connect to Lake Adger water once we secure approximately 1000 customers. It is my hope that Polk County, Columbus, Tryon, & Saluda are able to unite together and form one water authority that serves all the people of Polk County; after all, we all live in Polk County.

I probably have taken more time than I should have, but I wanted to stand here before you and tell you that this board has worked very hard to do what they were elected to do and that is to serve all the people of Polk County and to sit in those chairs and be accountable to each one of you.

Our county manager, Ryan Whitson, has not had an easy job in leading this county through the last two years, but he is to be saluted for a marvelous job. Ryan and I have not always agreed on everything, but I can say that he has postured himself in doing what is best for Polk County and I admire him for that.

I know this new board will recognize that the job we were elected to do is no where close to being complete, but that they will say that they will work to make sure Polk County remains the best place to live in America.

God bless all the citizens in Polk County and God bless America.