Polk County Board of Commissioner Chair’s farewell speech

Published 10:26 pm Thursday, December 4, 2014


Editor’s note: following is Polk County Board of Commission Chair Ted Owen’s exit speech he delivered during the county’s Dec. 1 meeting. Owens lost this year’s election after serving as a county commissioner from 1983-1988, from 2004-2008 and from 2010-2014. He also served as mayor of Columbus prior to his terms as a county commissioner.

I’m going to start this farewell speech by telling you what a life-long friend tells me in situations like this. He is the kind of friend that tries to comfort you and let you down real easy. This is what he says.

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“You got your “blank” beat!”

I’ll let you fill in the blank with the word you want to.

On a better note, my youngest grandson, who is 11-years-old and lives in Yorktown, Va., called me on Wednesday morning after the election. Now you got to understand that every time we visited him he always asks us to stay longer and I tell him we can’t, I have meetings to go to. This is what he told me on that Wednesday morning.

“Granddaddy, Mom said that Polk County’s loss is Virginia’s gain.”

Now I have to tell you that made me feel much better about the outcome of the election.

I will be honest with you, after the months of attacks and the efforts of some to destroy my character by implying I was dishonest and lack integrity, my human side wanted me to use this platform to attack back. However, I was reminded what a Christian should do and I also remember what I heard a Presbyterian minister say in a sermon. This was the quote the famous newscaster David Brinkley said:

“The bricks thrown at me helped me to have a stronger foundation.”

Besides all the thousands of dollars our opposition spent to defeat us, the only thing they succeeded in doing is getting an old politician defeated and he probably should have been put out to pasture a long time ago.

We have just observed Thanksgiving Day and I have so much to be thankful for. God has blessed me so much. He allowed a man that started life as a little boy living on the mill hill in Tryon and then moving him to a farm near Mill Spring to live with his grandpa, where he got a much needed attitude adjustment toward school and life’s values in general.

Let’s fast forward to the year of 1977. God granted me the opportunity to serve my fellow man by allowing me to be elected Mayor of Columbus. A Polk County Commissioner at the time, Mr. Billy Hugh Ruff from Sunny View told my wife, “Now it’s in his blood and he will never get it out.”

I have to admit it seems he was right. In 1983 I was appointed to the Polk County Board of Commissioners on the recommendation of the Polk County Republican Party. This began a path of new and broader opportunities to serve my fellow Polk Countians. During this time I have had many opportunities to participate or be a leader in events and setting directions that help improved the quality of life for folks that live in Polk County. When I mention being a leader I want to make it clear I’m not bragging about my abilities, for the truth is God has surrounded me with highly intelligent and forward thinking individuals that by their actions and advice enabled me to lead. I sincerely thank these people for their influence in my life.

For the next few minutes I would like to express some thank yous. I thank God for the prayers of Christians, the support of my Coopers Gap Baptist Church family, the many individuals that have helped me along the way, the cards, phone calls and individuals that have spoken to me and thanked me for my service.

In 2012 when the Republicans became the majority of the Polk County Board of Commissioners, we under took the much-needed task of restructuring Polk County government. I’m thankful that we have had highly professional, capable people apply for and come to work for the county. At this point I would like to quote the Honorable Mayor of Tryon, Jim Wright. He made this statement in his fine article in the TDB printed on Nov. 11, 2014.

“My personal organizational philosophy is: hire the best people you can find for the salary you can pay and let them do the job they know how to do.”

I believe Polk County has the best department heads (leaders) and the best employees of any county in North Carolina. At the top must be a good leader and Marche Pittman in these short two years, you have been under fire and criticized, have handled more difficult situations and personnel issues, plus put up with five aggressive commissioners that at times can be very unreasonable than most county managers experienced in five to 10 years. I thank you.

Beth (Fehrmann), clerk to the board, thank you for an outstanding job as clerk. You do a fine job in keeping accurate minutes, which is most important for it is the record of the actions of the BOC. Also, many thanks for working with me as chairman of the board. I know at times it was not easy.

Angé (High) thanks again for all the hard work on getting the volunteer boards organized and the friendly attitude you exhibit to everyone that comes to the county manager’s office.

Jana (Berg), thanks for being the attorney to the BOC. Your knowledge of county law is the best this county has seen. Also, you have legally helped us through some very difficult times.

I am thankful that we have many agencies that have worked with us. I especially thank Sheriff (Donald) Hill and his staff and school superintendent Bill Miller and the school board for their cooperation.

As you can imagine after 13 years I have served with many different individuals. I’ll have to say it has been an experience. Now then for you fellows: Ray (Gasperson), I can safely say you have an unquenchable desire to be a politician and a county commissioner. Keith (Holbert), you have the ability to latch onto something and stay with it until it is completed. Michael (Gage), I have seen you develop into a thorough and thoughtful leader and Tom (Pack), you and I have served together for eight years. You have an outstanding ability to understand and work budgets. Unfortunately not many appreciate that. The bottom line is I’m thankful I have had the privilege of serving with a majority of the board that is willing to tackle the difficult task of changing those things that were wrong and supporting those things that were right and at the same time improving the future of Polk County.

I am very thankful and delighted that Shane Bradley, a young man that is a very solid Christian person, was elected as county commissioner. I am confident Shane will do a good job.

I don’t normally do this, but water is life and as I leave the board I would strongly ask that you continue on the path of securing and providing water for all Polk County.

Leah (Justice), thanks for covering our meetings. I think you must have gone home many times shaking your head.

Last but certainly not least My Lord has blessed me with a supportive family, which includes Elna’s side of the family and my side of the family. My immediate family had to be tolerant of me for Beth, Bruce and Jonathan were in high school at Polk Central when I began this voyage. Elna was working at the bank at that time; she would rush in from there to cook dinner. I would come in late from the Milliken plant in Blacksburg. She would have dinner on the table so I could eat and then rush down to the town hall for a meeting. We didn’t have a town manager at that time so it required more time.

I’m especially grateful of Elna’s tolerance of me being a commissioner. She said, “don’t bring it home, you asked for it.”

Of course I brought it home, don’t all husbands?

Now I wish for the new board the very best and believe that they will be successful in their endeavors.

It has been my honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Polk County.

I have been asked what a de-elected commissioner is going to do. I’m going to do what my first priority is and that is serving my God and trying to help my fellow man.

God bless Polk County. God bless America.