Commissioner Watson gives farewell speech

Published 3:24 pm Friday, December 10, 2010

Editors note: Following is the&bsp; speech made by Polk County Commissioner Warren Watson during a county meeting held Dec. 6 at which new commissioners were sworn into office. Watson, an unaffiliated candidate, was defeated in November.

Fellow commissioners and citizens of Polk County,

I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve the citizens of Polk County for the past four years. It has been my honor and privilege to be entrusted with the responsibilities of county commissioner. I have not taken those responsibilities lightly, and I am proud of the work we have done as a board.

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I believe that the nature of the role of county commissioner makes the job one of the most challenging elected positions. We are working with a group of other individuals, many of whom are polar opposites in their ideas and opinions, and yet we are charged with making corporate decisions for the good of the citizens of the local community who elected us. I am not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point during my first year as commissioner, I think I earned the respect of my more experienced colleagues. Unfortunately, I didnt always avoid the trappings of partisanship in that first year. But I learned an important lesson in those days. The lesson was that partisanship has a high priceand that price is inefficiency and ineffectiveness. I hope the new board will heed these words.

Well into the first year of my term, our board began to gel into a team. And that team, consisting of commissioners Melton, Denton, Owens, Pack and myself, was extremely productive. We had our disagreements, yet we managed to make some important and far-reaching decisions that will have a positive and profound impact on Polk County for decades.

We preserved an important bridge to the countys past with our renovation of the historic Polk County courthouse, while updating the things necessary to assure the buildings long-term usefulness. One of the things I am most proud of is our commitment to repair and maintain many county facilities which had long been neglected. We recognized the need to move our agencies out of the dilapidated Jervey-Palmer Building, and have made great strides in that effort. I am also extremely proud of our purchase of the Carolina Classical School property to house the new Meeting Place Senior Center, and the soon to open Don and Betsy Freeman Center for Adult Day Health Care.

And I am proud to have served on a board that has accomplished so much in such a short period of time. Many of our approaches were innovative and considered firsts for a county of Polks size.

Our collaborative efforts with Inman-Campobello Water District and the Broad River Water Authority during the formation the Polk County Water Department, as well as our collaboration with Rutherford Life Services to create a feasible model for adult day care in Polk County, were certainly among those accomplishments.

Our decision to purchase Lake Adger for Polks future water source will likely prove to be the most important decision made on behalf of Polk County for the next century. And I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank commissioner Tommy Melton for his vision, persistence and superb leadership in bringing the purchase of Lake Adger to fruition. I would also like to express my sincere thanks to the other members of that board, commissioners Denton, Owens and Pack, for their vision and courage in making such a bold move for the betterment of Polk County. Furthermore, I would like to thank commissioners Gasperson, McDermott and Walker for following through to assure the success of these long-awaited projects.

I would also like to thank the taxpayers of Polk County for entrusting us with their hard-earned tax dollars. We could not have accomplished any of the aforementioned projects and goals without the surplus revenues created as a result of the change in tax rates in 2005. What became a necessity at the time, and forced the hands of the newly elected commissioners in 2005, became a tool that has benefitted Polk County for the last five years. Those surplus revenues gave our boards the financial wherewithal to tackle the problems associated with many years of deferred maintenance, and to address some issues that previous boards did not have the luxury to consider.

As a new commissioner, one of the first decisions our young board was forced to make was to hire a new county manager. I can honestly say that during his four years in Polk County, Manager Ryan Whitsons financial management skills and discipline have been key ingredients in our success.

I would also like to take this time to thank our clerk, Anne Britton, for her years of dedicated service and her professionalism. Anne, I wish you much success and happiness in your retirement and new endeavors.

I have enjoyed getting to know Beth Fehrmann as well. Beth is the first one you see when you walk into our administrative offices and she is that perky voice you hear on the other end of the phone line, always eager to help you.

There are too many others I would like to name tonight, but I wont, due to time constraints. Just know that I have enjoyed getting to know the entire staff and interacting with many of you to work on issues and challenges during my four years as commissioner. And I must admit that I will miss working on many of those worthwhile projects and seeing those friendly faces.

But as a businessman, I will also enjoy my new-found freedom to focus on continuing challenges and in developing new opportunities. Other than the necessities of business, my immediate focus will be in the areas of faith, family and friends. I would particularly like to thank my wife, Karen, for her devotion, her selflessness and her willingness to sacrifice her time to take up my slack at home, so I could pursue my passion of public service. I couldnt ask for a better partner in life, and I look&bsp; forward to spending a lot more time with her.

And finally, speaking of friends, I leave this seat tonight with more friends than when I started. To me, that is an accomplishment in itself. I have enjoyed my time as commissioner. Now it is time for a new board to take up the business of our county.

I have had the privilege of serving with all of the existing and newly-elected board members. To our new board, I offer these words of advice. Put away your party labels. Put personal prejudices aside to allow you to develop open lines of communication. Encourage opposing points of view and honest, open debate (there is much to be gained by considering many sides of an issue). Expect to get the same amount of respect that you are willing to give. And be willing to compromise, but dont compromise your principles or your integrity.

To the citizens of Polk County, I wish you good health and prosperity in the coming year. And I hope that I have left this place a little better than I found it.

Warren Watson