By Jesse Wood
Dec. 1, 2014. Former Chair of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners Nathan Miller said his goodbyes and recently-elected Commissioner Jimmy Hodges was welcomed on the board at a meeting on Monday morning. In addition to Hodges, Judge Phil Ginn also swore in re-elected Commissioners David Blust and Billy Kennedy.
Before exiting the board, Miller said serving on the board and as chairman was an honor.
“It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life,” Miller said. “My family has been here a long time. We’ve had many leaders in the family, and I am glad that I could play one small part in that. I leave this county in a better shape than we found it … We’ve done many good things and had many sparring matches that I’ve enjoyed. I will miss it.”
Miller, who didn’t run for re-election as he sought the office of District Attorney, noted that Hodges was the only change on the board. Miller said that he thought Hodges would be a “great… and excellent member of this board.”
Miller noted the competent county staff that works with the board. In particular, he praised County Manager Deron Geouque by saying that Geouque was “by far the best” of all the county managers he has worked with in the mountain regions while serving as chairman for the previous four years.
While Miller said that he will miss serving on the board, he added that his wife is “thrilled” that Miller will be able to spend more time at home – especially since twins are on the way.
Fellow Republican Commissioner David Blust said that he’s thoroughly enjoyed working with Miller, who he described as a straight shooter.
“I say this to him all the time … Nathan is very hard but very fair, and I appreciate someone where you know their yes is a yes and their no is a no, and he’s always been that way,” Blust said. “He’ll tell you why he’s going to vote for something or why he’s not going to vote for it – no matter what the public opinion is. I appreciate that. It’s been great serving with you.”
Democrat Commissioners John Welch and Billy Kennedy also had pleasant words for the outgoing commissioner.
Kennedy said that he, too, has enjoyed the sparring matches with the best interests of the county at heart, and Welch thanked Miller for the extra work and meetings he put in or attended as the chairman of the board.
After the commissioners were sworn in for a new or additional term, Jimmy Hodges, a Republican, received bipartisan support as he was chosen to be the chair of the commissioners. Hodges, who served on the board as a Democrat from 1996 to 2004, said he appreciated the unanimous support as chair of the board.
Hodges noted that he wouldn’t have ran for Miller’s seat if Miller had decided to run again for commissioner. He also thanked Miller for his service.
“I certainly appreciate his stance and what he’s done for the county,” Hodges said.
“Also, it’s a great honor and privilege to be sitting here today and I never thought I would ever do this again, but the people of the county has allowed me to do so, and I appreciate the unanimous vote for this position,” Hodges said. “Certainly, I thank the people of this county for this support and we live in the best place in the world in my opinion. But you know being on this board here and having been on the board, you know many times we are called upon to make decisions a lot of times that some people don’t agree with. That’s what we are elected to do. As I have said before, it’s not necessarily the decisions that we make, but it’s how each of those decisions affect the people of this county.”
Hodges concluded his little speech by saying that he has “hope and trust” that all the commissioners can work together for the betterment of the county.
After Hodges was done speaking, Welch nominated Kennedy for the vice chair position. In his motion, Welch cited that Kennedy received the second most votes in the three commissioners’ races – behind Hodges and ahead of Blust – during the general election.
However, the Republicans on the board – Hodges, Blust and Commissioner Perry Yates – voted no on that motion. Blust was then selected, in a 3-2 vote, to serve as vice chair of the board for another term.