Commissioner Melton gives farewell speech

Published 12:35 am Friday, December 10, 2010

Editor’s note: Following is the  speech made by Polk County Commissioner Tommy Melton during a county meeting held Monday at which new commissioners were sworn into office. Melton, an unaffiliated candidate, was defeated in November.
It was approximately four years ago on this date that I was sworn in as county ccommissioner. I will have to say that that was one of the happiest days of my life. Then, when I became chairman, that just made it better. In the next few minutes, while I read this statement, I’m sure I will use the word “I” but I want to say now, that does not imply that Tommy Melton accomplished this. It means that I was a part of helping to make Polk County a better place to live.
It is impossible to thank and recognize all the people whom I have met and worked with over the last four years. I have had a wonderful opportunity to serve on many boards that served the citizens of Polk County. Some of those are: Polk County Recreation Board, Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health Department, Mental Health Board, St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Trustees and St. Luke’s Hospital Foundation Board, the latter two of which I will continue to be a part of.
These boards have given me an appreciation for the fine quality of people that I have been able to serve alongside and to witness what these boards accomplish for Polk County. So many of these people serve Polk County for the love of Polk County and for the love of the people who reside in Polk County.
I have always said that Polk County’s greatest asset is her employees. As I complete my four years as a commissioner, I truly realize how blessed Polk County is to have the caliber of employees that we have.
When I became a commissioner, I had five goals that I wanted to see accomplished for the citizens of Polk County. The first was to acquire a good water source to provide the opportunity for all citizens to have good water availability. This was done by purchasing Lake Adger. The night that I signed the purchase contract, I made the statement, “I believe this is the greatest decision to be made for the citizens of Polk County in this century.” And tonight, I still stand by that statement.
The second goal was to remodel and make safe what I believe to be one of our most important buildings – our historic county courthouse. This grand structure is being used today by our county employees, and court is being held in this facility.
St. Luke’s Hospital is extremely important to the vitality and health of all of our citizens.
My goal was to improve dialogue and trust between county government and our local hospital. I believe in the last four years this has been done, but this new board and future boards must never lose sight of protecting and improving the relationship, and understanding the needs of St. Luke’s Hospital.
My fourth goal was to purchase property that would allow us to improve the service to our senior population. This was done by purchasing the property from Carolina Classical School, which consists of approximately 27 acres. We were able to renovate the buildings and we now have what is referred to as the Meeting Place and the Don and Betsy Freeman Adult Daycare Center.
My fifth goal was to remove the Department of Social Services from the aging Jervey Palmer Building. Currently this long overdue project is under construction. Though this last project has been very controversial, I still believe that I was able to accomplish my goals that I set four years ago.
I do want to address these two employees by name. First is Ryan Whitson, our county manager. While not always agreeing with Ryan (and he not always agreeing with me), I have the utmost respect for his intentions and capabilities. I have always found Ryan to be a person that I felt comfortable in talking with. He has massive experience and leadership ability. He must have that in order to have the rank of Command Sgt. Major in the U.S. Army Reserve, of which very few reach this rank. Ryan loves America, and we should all be proud to have someone like him serving this country. As a commissioner, I learned that Ryan is first a Christian, second, loves his family and third, loves his country. And last, but not least (and I say this in a joking manner), he counts his votes, as he has told me many times. But isn’t that thinking ahead?
I’ve saved the absolute best for last, and that person is Anne Britton. When I became a commissioner and was voted chairman, I had no clue how to conduct meetings and be an effective chairman. Anne was extremely patient and kind to me, and helped me to muddle through the first few meetings. Her knowledge of state and local government is massive. If she doesn’t know the answer, she knows where to go to find it very quickly.
I don’t believe there is any county employee that has the respect that Anne Britton has, from all the employees. In a few short days, Anne will retire so that she and Hayden can enjoy their lives together. Anne, Tina and I say thank you.
Let me close by saying I hope this new board will elect commissioner Owens as the chairman. Polk County has a tradition of the high vote getter being voted in as chairman. It was done for me, it was done for commissioner Walker and as far back as I can remember, it has always been done, if the high vote getter wanted to be the chair. It’s not about politics anymore, it’s about what the voters of this great county said.
Commissioner Owens has the experience, desire and the ability to lead this board of commissioners. Please give him what he has earned and what the voters spoke when he received the most votes.
I say goodbye to all the citizens of Polk County, and I thank all of you for this great opportunity to have served you.
– Tommy Melton

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