ELIZABETHTON — The Carter County Commission voted 18-6 on Monday to elect Thomas "Yogi" Bowers as the new chairman of the legislative body. Bowers defeated Mayor Leon Humphrey, who had served as chairman for the past year.
"I am very honored that you would have the confidence in me to put me in this chair," Bowers said after the vote.
The vote came during the annual reorganization of the county government. Lawrence Hodge was retained as vice chairman. Bowers had already resigned his chairmanship of the Budget Committee last week and was replaced by Harry Sisk.
Bowers took note of the discord that had characterized some of the commission meetings in the past month. At one meeting when Humphrey was chairman he had Bowers removed by the sergeant-at-arms. Bowers called for the commission to come together under his leadership.
"If we work together we can pick the county up at the point on the road where it has fallen and move the county on down the road to a better place, if we work together," Bowers said in his first remarks after taking the chair.
Humphrey said he had not intended to take the chair when he was elected mayor by an overwhelming vote last year. He said when the mayor chairs the commission he must maintain a neutrality that was not always in the public's interest.
In an unusual move, Humphrey began Monday's meeting by addressing the commission from the floor and told them it would be more appropriate for him to speak out as mayor when he saw actions that were not in the best interest of the public. As an example, he criticized past administrations "united with the good ole boys" for failing to adequately oversee the new jail, resulting in many flaws and problems with the building.
Humphrey then announced he was resigning as chairman immediately so he could provide that voice.
Vice Chairman Hodge then took over the meeting and presided over the election of the new chairman, in which Humphrey and Bowers were the only nominees.