By MARINA WATERS
The September Washington County Commission meeting will be the last for Commissioner Larry England.
England, who represents District 7, is stepping down from his role as commissioner because he will be moving from his district to another in Johnson City.
“It’s bitter sweet,” England told the Herald & Tribune. “We just need to downsize on our home, but unfortunately it takes me out of my district and I’m unable to fulfill my obligation as commissioner for the next two years … It’s just been an honor to be a part of it and to say I had a role in this.”
England was first elected to the commission in 2014 and has two more years left in his second term. During his time as a commissioner, England has served on multiple committees including the Beer Board, Budget Committee, the Commerce Industry & Agriculture Committee and the Johnson City Development Authority TIF Advisory Board among others.
His committee work is something Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said England was always ready to take on.
“He was always there if you needed anything,” Matherly said. “He was the first one to volunteer a lot of times. He was one of those people you could call and say, ‘I’m in a pinch here, Larry. I need somebody to do this.’ He always would. He didn’t miss much. He was always there. He stayed busy.”
Though his term was cut short, the soon-to-be-former commissioner recognizes there is still work to be done for the commission as he hopes to continue his own work within the community after leaving the commission.
“There’s still work to do (for the commission). One of the things we were able to do was build the new Boones Creek School which is just a fabulous facility,” England said. “And of course the Jonesborough School is in the works. I hope to see that come to fruition sometime in the near future. That will be a great addition for those folks down there.”
During his time as a commissioner, England saw the commission cut down from 25 to 15 members in 2018 and saw redevelopment in Johnson City.
“Going in my first term, one of the things we wanted to do was reduce the size of the commission,” England said. “We were able to do that. That saved the taxpayers some bit of money and we got more focused on the topics and there weren’t as many opinions around the table.
“Some of the things we have accomplished have been helping with the (tax increment financing) program to help with the redevelopment area of Johnson City. Anybody that’s been down there in the last five or six years has seen a huge difference and there’s still a lot more yet to come.”
England’s seat isn’t the only one the commission has had to consider lately.
Commissioner Gary McAllister recently gave up his seat on the commission because he was moving from his district, District 13.
But because McAllister’s vacancy occurred less than 60 days before the August election and 60 days or more before the November election, the Republican, Democrat and Independent parties in the county were to select a candidate to run for the position within District 13.
The Republican Party is the only group to produce a candidate, Kenneth Huffine, who filed for the seat which will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Huffine will run unopposed.
However, because England’s vacancy was announced after the filing date, his seat will be filled by the county commission.
“We have until our December meeting to fill the slot,” Matherly said. “We have 120 days after Larry’s last day. We want to get it filled as quickly as possible, but yet, anyone who wants an opportunity to (fill the seat), you want them to be able to speak and then the opportunity for the community to speak to the other commissioners and say who they want.”
Matherly and England said they have both heard from multiple community members who are interested in the commission seat. However, Matherly said he felt that whomever fills the vacancy will have a lot to live up to.
“His replacement has some big shoes to fill,” Matherly said. “Larry’s done a lot for the community, not just on the commission. He’s served in many roles and he’s been such a community oriented gentleman. He is such a good guy. I’m really going to miss his friendship.”