Two new faces in Polk government

Published 8:00 am Saturday, November 10, 2018

Winners respond to Tuesday’s election results

COLUMBUS — Leadership did not change much this week for the Polk County Board of Commissioners, with two incumbents winning re-election and one newcomer selected by voters, though the county elected its first Republican sheriff in 12 years.

Incumbent Polk County Commissioners Tommy Melton (R) and Ray Gasperson (D) were re-elected this week, along with newcomer Paul Beiler (R), who will replace commissioner Shane Bradley (R), who did not seek re-election. The board will continue with four Republicans and one Democrat.

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Melton was high vote getter on Tuesday and said he would like to thank all those who supported him.

“Polk County is the greatest place to live and we want to keep it that way,” Melton said. “Clean, viable growth is important, and our education system is second to none. I look forward to the challenges of the next four years.”

Melton is retired from careers in banking, finance, commercial lending and the automobile industry. He served on the Columbus Town Council from 2003-2006 and has been a Polk County commissioner from 2006-2010 and since 2016.

As high vote getter,  Melton won a four-year term on Tuesday.

For coming in second, Beiler also won a four-year term. He said it is an honor to be a commissioner of one of the most beautiful counties in the country.

“The support that I have felt from my family, church family and community has been truly amazing,” Beiler said. “It is very humbling to win this race that had such a qualified field of candidates. Thank you, Polk County residents, for your support, and I look forward to serving the people of Polk County for the next four years.”

Beiler is the current owner of Beiler Construction, and is a pastor. He is also a board member of Polk County Youth Football and past president of the association.

With the third-highest number of votes, Gasperson won a two-year term as county commissioner Tuesday.

Gasperson thanked the nearly 4,800 citizens of the county who voted for him.

“On Dec. 3, I will be sworn in as county commissioner for the fourth time,” Gasperson said. “I consider it to be a great honor to continue serving all the citizens of our county.”

Gasperson is a real estate broker and operates a family farm. He has been a Polk County commissioner for a decade, first being elected in 2008.

Republican Tim Wright won the Polk County Sheriff race on Tuesday. Wright has been in law enforcement for 24 years and served in the U.S. Navy for four years. Wright has been an officer with the Tryon Police Department since 1994 and currently serves as a captain. He is also an adjunct professor with the Isothermal Community College Criminal Justice Program.

He will take over in December as sheriff for current sheriff Donald Hill (D), who did not seek re-election this year after serving as sheriff for the past decade.

Wright said he wants to express his sincerest gratitude to everyone who took time to vote in the midterm election.

“The unprecedented numbers show that the citizenry truly does care about representation of the people, for the people, by the people,” Wright said.

Wright said he is absolutely humbled and honored to receive the support of Polk County and is confident he will work hand-in-hand with the individual communities that make Polk County such a wonderful place to live, and he will ensure that every citizen no matter race, religion, creed, political affiliation or social status receives the best possible law enforcement and protections.

“Your voices were heard and we have already begun the process of instilling our guiding principles of pride, honor, integrity and professionalism into your sheriff’s office,” Wright said. “The citizens of Polk County deserve a sheriff’s office that is competent and capable of serving the needs of all of Polk County. With your help and input, I will ensure that through professional hiring standards, rigorous training and the implementation of policies and accountability practices, that is what will happen.

“I look forward to continuing on this journey and working with members of the community, the board of commissioners, County Manager [Marche] Pittman and all of the other law enforcement and public service agencies in the area to make our goals successful. Again, I am completely humbled and honored by your support, and look forward to the opportunity to serve you all.”