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Farewell, Jack: Retiring trustee looks forward to future

Thirty years of service to Washington County is a bittersweet experience for Trustee Jack Daniels.
“I have mixed emotions about retiring because I enjoy my job,” he said last week. “But any time I start to wonder, my wife reminds me I’ve made the right decision. I feel good about it.”
A celebration party was held Aug. 16 at the International Storytelling Center, and many friends and fellow colleagues attended to share their congratulations on a job well done.
Daniels was working as an auditor for the State of Tennessee when then-County Clerk Roy Phillips encouraged him to run for the office in 1986. “My wife worked for Roy Phillips for 20 years, and we had become good friends,” he said.
Being a tax collector is the most challenging aspect of the job, and Daniels said he has always tried to meet the highest standards. “There is a lot of responsibility in this position,” he said. “We have $120 million coming through this office annually.”
He also has developed a lot of friendships with fellow officials and county citizens along the way. “It’s always good to have friends,” he noted.
Continuing to work full-time, in an elected position no less, until age 80 may seem a little unusual, but Daniels had his reasons. “I enjoy it, and I felt good enough physically and mentally,” he said. “There was also the income.”
Daniels said he and his wife adopted three children later in life, and his paychecks were a necessity. “I would have been out looking for a job if I was not elected.”
County government is a demanding field though, and Daniels said his method of management is framed by an understanding of his responsibilities and his authority. “I found that out early in office when I was a little fiery and felt challenged by the county commission, but it’s been rewarding,” he said.
Leaving the county in good fiscal shape is also a good feeling. “The county is well-positioned at present, and we have been fortunate enough with good management to not have a tax increase in four years,” he said, adding he does foresee a time it will happen. “An increase will be inevitable to meet the needs of the school system and the county.”
For now, Washington County is solid. “We’re well-positioned to fund the things needed in the future; it’s just a matter of how it’s done,” he said.
“Where do my tax dollars go?” is a frustrating question Daniels hears often. “I usually ask them, ‘What road did you use to get to work this morning?’” he said with a smile.
While technology has led to a lot of evolution in his office, Daniels has refused to budge on at least one convenience. “A lot of people say I’m old-fashioned, but it’s a personal matter with me,” he said. “I don’t like to see people putting their taxes on a credit card.”
Daniels knows there will be a period of transition following his last full day on Friday, Aug. 29. “I’ve worked all my life, and I will miss the interaction with the people, especially my employees,” he said. “But it’s not insurmountable. It’s a new chapter.”