By Collin Brooks
To a wanderer, it might have sounded like the Washington County Commission was howling at the moon during a part of their regularly scheduled May meeting on Monday night.
However, it was simply 16 commissioners voting Pat Wolfe, by saying his last name. Wolfe was elected to serve for 8th District Commissioner Matthew Morris until he returns from active military duty. Morris isn’t expected to return from his service in the National Guard until the spring of 2017.
Wolfe assumed his seat at the commission table after a 16-6 vote that sealed his victory. The other six votes went to Brad Baines who was nominated by the other 8th District Commissioner Steve Light.
Wolfe served as a Washington County Commissioner in the 9th District for 16 years — 12 of which he sat on the budget committee — but did not seek reelection in during the 2014 election.
The veteran commissioner said that he was happy to fill in for Morris on a temporary basis while he serves his military duty.
“I am a Vietnam veteran, just like commissioner Rick Storey is, and I understand that Captain Morris is either in a combat situation or about to be and I feel very honored that he recommended me to you all that I temporarily serve his position,” Wolfe told the commission after taking his oath. “What attracted me to the position was that it was for a fellow vet and that it is a temporary position.”
Light said before the meeting that he was going to nominate Ben Bowman, however Bowman respectfully declined, so Light said he went to the fourth place finisher in the 2014 election which was Baines. After the meeting, Light mentioned that he wasn’t unhappy that Wolfe won the vote, but he was disappointed that the commission didn’t vote for the person that he recommended.
“They didn’t follow protocols that they always followed,” said Light, referring to the commission normally selecting whoever the other commissioner in the district nominates. “I like Mr. Wolfe, I just felt like it should have been my decision.”
Five people, including Baines, took time during the public forum to express their support for Baines, a Fall Branch resident, but ultimately Wolfe won. Now Wolfe looks on to some of the upcoming issues that the commission has coming.
“Education is always a priority to the folks in the county, as well as to the folks in the city,” Wolfe said. “And I think to try to solve the situation that we are in the process of developing will be one of my biggest challenges.”
Wolfe being the father of Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe, some might assume that he will be in support of his son’s initiative for a new Jonesborough K-8. But he said that isn’t necessarily the case.
“At this point, I just want to look at all the numbers and then try to make the very best decision that I can make,” Wolfe said. “I certainly think that we have to look at the age of the current facilities and that factors in to a great extent. You just have to look at how long can you stretch something out.”
A question was raised in the meeting as to whether Morris was on active duty or if he was serving as a private contractor overseas. That was dispelled at the end of the meeting when county attorney Tom Seeley said he received Morris’ official deployment papers through e-mail just minutes before the meeting came to rest.
Morris congratulated Wolfe, but also voiced his displeasure with a rumor floating around.
“I am very pleased to announce that fellow Army Veteran and Washington County Commissioner Pat Wolfe has been voted in as my temporary replacement on the Washington County Commission,” Morris wrote. “Thank you for your service Pat.
“Also, in case there was any question regarding my activation with a military unit vs. being a private contractor, please view the article below. Thank you again for all of your support.”
He attached a link to a news station WSLS in Lynchburg, Virgina that wrote a feature story about the Washington County Commissioner’s first deployment with the Lynchburg-based 1st battalion, 116th infantry regiment of the Virginia National Guard.
HERE ARE COMMENTS FROM PAT WOLFE