Commissioner Pat Wolfe announced Monday he would not be seeking a fifth term on the Washington County Commission.(Photo by Dave Boyd, Photos below by Lee Talbert)
Telford’s Pat Wolfe, a familiar face on the Washington County Commission for 16 years, said Monday he will not run for another term.
Wolfe, 72, first won a seat on the commission in 1998. He’ll finish his fourth term as a District 9 representative in August. The precocious but very straightforward Washington County native said the last four years of his tenure have been “the least enjoyable.”
“The County Commission has not meshed with the county mayor,” he said. “I think there’s various reasons for that. I’m afraid we have commissioners that have their own agenda, and that’s overriding the overall goals of the commission. It bothers me.”
His sentiment is in line with District 5 incumbents Ken Lyon and Ethan Flynn, who announced last week they would not run for another term in the May 6 Republican primary or Aug. 7 County General Election.
“This is disappointing, especially the fact that we do not have our archives up and running,” said Wolfe who is treasurer of The Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. “We’ve had funding in place for over a year. It should have been taken care of.”
Wolfe said he will support incumbent County Mayor Dan Eldridge in the contest for that spot this year. Eldridge will square off on May 6 with challenger Mike Rutherford, the county’s zoning administrator.
So what improvements can county commissioners make to help smooth out the continuing rift?
“Communication,” Wolfe said without hesitation. “The mayor has had some good ideas. We have some people on the commission that are not in the majority that have slowed things down. I do support Mr. Eldridge. To me, in county government, it’s good to have a person -- male or female -- that has business experience and able to make decisions. He’s proven he has what it takes. He’s very educated, and he’s a product of this area.”
Wolfe also said many people think Eldridge does not pay enough attention to the unincorporated areas of the county.
“When we had the tornadoes come through, he was there,” Wolfe said. “He spent an enormous amount of hours working on that. He also was out early when flood occurred in Dry Creek.”
Meanwhile, the County Owned Property Committee’s plan to finish renovations in the Jonesborough courthouse’s second floor have been batted back and forth, and one of the committee’s biggest concerns is the liability involved in using inmate labor.
Eldridge, as well as Budget Committee members, have wanted to use inmate labor.
“I’ve seen all the plans, and the mayor put together a good plan,” Wolfe said. “He’s also had experience as a building contractor. I have no problem with inmate labor.”
He also said he’d like to see the number of commissioners reduced from 25 to 15.
“If I had my way, there would be five districts with three commissioners each,” he said. “And we’ve got more committees than you can shake a stick at.”
His vacancy creates a race between three candidates for two spots: incumbent David Shanks, who is finishing his first term; Danny Edens, a former commissioner; and Todd Hensley, a local businessman.
Wolfe, who lives on a farm near Jonesborough purchased by his grandfather in 1904, was born in Washington County. He went to Leesburg Elementary School and then attended the Washington College Academy. He went to East Tennessee State University and was an ROTC graduate. In 1963, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. by the U.S. Army. In 1964 he went to Vietnam where he was a platoon leader of a unit that helped provide communications near Saigon.
“I was actually part of the first big build-up by former President Lyndon Johnson,” he said. “I came back in 1966 unscathed, but I lost five men out of my platoon.”
Wolfe’s patriotism is on display at each full County Commission when he announces in a bold voice as attendees rise for the Pledge of Allegiance: “Let’s honor America.”
“I love America,” he replied when asked why he has been repeating this tradition for 16 years. “I believe in America.”
Wolfe said he will continue his work with The Heritage Alliance as well as serving as a board member of the Upper East Tennessee Development Board and Jonesborough Kiwanis Club.
“I’ll have enough to keep me busy,” he said.