By MARINA WATERS
A new year, new role and a new office are just around the corner for Washington County commissioner David Tomita — who is stepping down from his county commission role to assume his new position as the mayor of Johnson City.
During 2016’s last Washington County Commission meeting on Monday, Dec. 19, Tomita officially announced his resignation from the commission in light of his new mayoral role in Johnson City.
“He’s an asset. He’s done a great job,” Greg Matherly, chairman of the Washington County Commission said. “I kind of expected it myself. He was already the vice mayor and with his abilities and as good of a job as he’d done down here, I had no doubt that he would make an excellent mayor for the city of Johnson City.
“If I was up there on that commission, I would have voted for him to be mayor.”
Tomita has simultaneously served as a county commissioner and a Johnson City commissioner, but, his newest role as mayor left him with a decision to make.
“It was a hard decision because I really enjoyed my service on the county commission,” Tomita said. “And I did think that my being on both of them provided a pretty good bridge. Knowing the unintended consequences of what the other body is doing is helpful. It’s easier when you understand what’s going on. So I’m glad I did what I did. I never for a minute thought that there was conflict of interest.
“It would be difficult to serve as city mayor and on the county commission. There’d always be the undertones of preferential treatment and I didn’t want to do that.”
Johnson City will gain Tomita and Joe Wise, who back in May announced his resignation from the county commission if he were to gain a spot on the city commission. Though Matherly said he will miss the two commissioners, opportunity lies ahead for the county commission.
“Those two guys have filled a big role and we’re gonna miss them,” Matherly said. “But there again, you’re going to have them on the city commission which is somebody we know and they know us and they know what’s going on in the county too. Both have high level (of knowledge) of the county government and what’s going on.”
The understanding these two commissioners have is something Wise also thinks will benefit both commissions.
“I believe it helps that two members of the city commission have direct and recent experience serving on the county commission because clearly Johnson City and Washington County’s futures are inextricably linked,” Wise said. “As city commissioners, understanding the kinds of challenges and underlying issues that the county can encounter will help us be more sympathetic or more sensitive to opportunities where we can partner effectively for a mutually beneficial outcome.”
Tomita said knowing those on both the county and city commissions has helped him in the past and will help him in the future.
“It’s easier to not like people you don’t know and I think for many years the city was sort of this nameless, faceless entity,” Tomita said. “And the county was this nameless, faceless entity. It’s harder to do harmful things to people that you know and like so hopefully we can work together better. We’ve come a long way and we’ve got a long way left to go. I suspect we’ll get there.”
With 2017 just ahead, a similar aspiration was in mind for Matherly and Tomita—the chance to work together again.
“He’s been an excellent commissioner for us and we’re gonna miss him,” Matherly said. “But I think too, with him in the role as mayor, I think he’s gonna bring an understanding of county government as well as city government. I think that’s gonna be a plus for him and a plus for us.
He’s somebody we can talk to. I’m glad he’s in that role.”