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“Good trouble”

Polk says goodbye to commissioner Ray Gasperson

COLUMBUS—Polk County Commissioner Ray Gasperson stepped down from office Monday after 12 years and was met with several thanking him and wishing him farewell. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday night with a small crowd outside with signs and gifts for Gasperson. 

The board swore in new commissioners following the November election. 

Gasperson said he feels like he took the approach of the late Representative from Georgia, John Lewis, who said, “Good trouble philosophy is very simple. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, say something, do something, get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” 

Gasperson said he has always focused on taking the necessary actions that would put the interests of all the citizens of Polk County first and foremost, regardless of political affiliation. 

Gasperson leaves as the last democrat to hold office on the past couple of boards. 

During citizen comments, most done virtually, Pat Salomon said Gasperson has always represented all the people of Polk County. 

Margaret Parker said Gasperson took his job very seriously. 

“You could tell at the meetings he’d done his homework and his research,” Parker said. 

She also said Gasperson never backed down and has a record of being one of the most fiscally responsible commissioners in recent history. 

“He is an unusually gifted community servant and leader,” said Parker. “And Polk County has become a better place because of him. Thank you, Ray, for caring about all of us and our county.” 

Pat Lennon and former commissioner Cindy Walker also made comments. Walker said she hopes Gasperson comes back in a couple of years to run again. 

Commissioner David Moore wished Gasperson and his family good health. 

Commissioner vice chair Paul Beiler said the board had unity. 

“I thought we did a very good job of working together,” Beiler said. “The overall working together I appreciate. Your wise counsel will be missed up here. I appreciate everything you’ve done.” 

Commissioner chair Tommy Melton told Gasperson he could walk away with his back straight and his head held high. 

“You brought a lot to this board,” Melton said. “A lot of listening, a lot of good thoughts and I really appreciate the way you fought for what you believed in.” 

Melton said Gasperson and his family are impeccable and he was proud to serve with him. 

Commissioner Myron Yoder said Gasperson was a good friend, that they went on trips together and he always enjoyed Gasperson’s experience on the board. 

“12 years of service, that’s no little thing,” Yoder said. “I really appreciate all the things you’ve done for the board and the county and the citizens.” 

The board presented him with a plaque for his service. 

Following are Gasperson’s comments he made prior to leaving office: 

“When I review my 12 years on the Polk Board of Commissioners, my frequent approach toward contentious issues on which the BOC needed to take action would result in me on many occasions getting myself into “Good Trouble”. This is a phrase coined by the late Representative from Georgia John Lewis. As Representative Lewis would say, “Good trouble philosophy is very simple, when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, say

something, do something, get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble”. I believe this

philosophy helps summarize the approach I took as Commissioner. I have always focused on

taking the necessary actions that would put the interests of all the citizens of Polk County first

and foremost, regardless of political affiliation.

10 years ago, during the process needed to approve the site and build the county DSS building,

known as the Howard B. Greene Human Services Building, I got myself into whole lot of “good

trouble’. It proved to be a very contentious issue, especially with many members of the

community, for a desperately needed project that I was spearheading. Fortunately, in the end,

the majority of the Board worked with me to see this project to completion. Through the years I

have frequently engaged in “good trouble” over many issues, for example (just to name a few):

zoning, subdivision regulation, Lake Adger and waterlines, annual county budgets, county

revaluations, county personnel, and county Health District issues. Even though I often felt like a

“voice in the wilderness”, I was always working to find common ground with the public and other

members of the Board. And, more often than not, through compromise we did find common

ground.

The “good trouble” that I created over the location of the new Sheriff office and Detention Center

has been proved to be one of the most positive for me. Five years ago, the other four members

of the Board, at that time, had chosen a location that I was convinced was inferior and would

prove to be very problematic. Fortunately I was able to work behind the scenes to help secure

the option to purchase the site were the new Sheriff office and jail is now located. The vote for

this property purchase was unanimous! And, as a major bonus, we also now have a prepared

site for a future Polk County Courthouse and County Government Services Building.

It’s important for me to note that the current members of the Board has worked very well

together. Over the last couple of years this has greatly reduced me engaging in “good trouble”.

I am convinced that doing the hard work of having a vibrant and healthy democracy often

requires getting into “good trouble”. My challenge for all citizens of Polk County is to commit

yourselves to doing the hard work of democracy, and when necessary, not hesitating getting

into “good trouble”.

Finally, I would like to again thank the citizens of Polk County. My journey over the last 12

years serving on the Polk County Board of Commissioners has been one of the most

challenging and satisfying experiences of my adult life. I have had the privilege to work with

many remarkable and talented elected officials, county employees and volunteers all striving to

make our county an excellent place to live, work, play, raise families, be educated and worship.

I am very grateful to everyone who has supported me through several election cycles and years

of public service, especially my wife Sue and my adult children Laura, Corey and Julia. I realize

that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven”. And now

for me, the time has arrived to transition from serving as a Commissioner to other purposes and

experiences. Of course I will continue to work to improve our county and, most likely, will

occasionally get into ‘good trouble’.”