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Commissioners say it’s time to quit

County Commissioner Pat Wolfe felt a sense of relief when the Feb. 20 noon deadline passed and he was no longer eligible to qualify for the 2014 election.
“I’m probably trying to act like Derek Jeter who’s retiring from the Yankees this year while he’s still on top,” Wolfe said. “I’m still of sound mind, my body is beaten up a little, but I can still make a rational decision.”
Four terms on the Washington County Commission brought Wolfe to a point similar to the one he faced when considering retirement after 45 years in the banking industry.
“I’ve seen too many people who try to be hangers-on,” he said. According to Wolfe, it’s a position he never wants to be in and the primary reason he chose not to run.
Unexpected changes in the commission structure were additional factors. “It has surprised me how strong the County-Owned Property Committee has gotten in the last three years,” he offered as an example.
Wolfe said when he came on the commission 16 years ago, County-Owned Property was a minor committee that didn’t even meet on a regular basis.
“It appears now they’re as powerful as the Budget Committee and seem to be calling the shots,” he said. “To me, (the commission) has become paralyzed by analysis.”
The hold-up on the courthouse renovations is keeping other projects from moving forward, he noted, referring to the delay in moving the mayor’s offices and bookkeeping out of the county office building. “One of my bigger disappointments is the archive is not up and running.”
According to Wolfe, commissioners need to focus on what’s good for the county. “We have one of the top law enforcement agencies, one of the best highway departments, and so many good things that we can lose sight of,” he said.
Commissioner Ken Lyon, who is leaving after 12 years of service, agreed. “We need to work together and not have a coup going on all the time,” he said. “It’s a power thing, and it turns my stomach that this could go on in this great county.”
While Lyon said problems existed during his early years on the commission, none were as blatant as those of the last four years.
“From the very first meeting, certain people were already set up to cause trouble for Dan Eldridge,” he said. “He’s a smart man, and there is no limit to what he can do, but they never gave him a chance.”
Fighting what seemed to be a losing battle finally became too much for Lyon. “It hurts because I love trying to help, but I pride myself that my votes were good for the people,” he said.
A focused effort for the common good is what Washington County needs, according to Lyon. “I hope that we elect some very good people who have nothing but positive thoughts and ideas who can get away from self-serving motives,” he said.
Four years were enough for Commissioner Ethan Flynn, but he says he enjoyed the experience.
“My (leaving) has more to do with life changes,” he said. “I’ll miss it.”
Managing the finances during a difficult economic period is an accomplishment of his term, according to Flynn.
“I’m a numbers guy, and I enjoyed digging into the details of the budget and the finances of county government,” he said. “I think we’re in a healthy position.”
The community’s coming together following the Dry Creek flood also speaks well for the county, Flynn said, in addition to the approval of a new EMS station.
“Any time we improve public safety response time like we did in Sulphur Springs, we’ve really made a tangible improvement in the county,” he said.
With Lyon and Flynn opting out of another term and Commissioner Richard Matherly running for a spot in the 10th district this year, the 2014 election will bring all new representation to the 5th District in south Johnson City.