ELIZABETHTON — A man who holds the record for serving the most consecutive time as sheriff is back again in Carter County government.
The Carter County Commission voted overwhelmingly to appoint John Henson to fill the unexpired term of Ross Potter as one of the two constables for the 6th District, which includes Hampton, Valley Forge, Little Milligan and Elk Mills.
Henson served as sheriff from 1996-2006. Before that, he served as a deputy in the department, working up to the rank of captain at the time of his election.
Henson was elected with the vote of 21 of the 24 commissioners. Joseph Hatley received two votes and former Carter County deputy Allen Matheson received one vote. William Braswell was also nominated but did not receive a vote.
Potter died in the hospital from injuries he suffered in an Aug. 4 crash involving his cruiser on Blue Springs Road at the intersection with Tenn. Highway 91. A passenger, Jeanne B. Leonard, died in the crash.
Prior to taking the vote, Commissioner Steve Chambers, who represents the 6th District, praised Potter.
“Ross Potter was one of the the best constables Carter County ever had,” Chambers said to his fellow commissioners. “He was not only a constable, he was a friend. He did great service to this county. Mr. Potter spent many hours patrolling the schools and the churches.”
Chambers said Potter performed untold hours of service to his district when it was hit by the disastrous Doe River Flood of 1998.
“I appreciate the job Mr. Potter did,” Chambers concluded to loud applause from commissioners and the citizens attending the meeting.
There was confusion before the vote over whether the election had been properly advertised.
The new chairman of the Carter County Commission, Thomas “Yogi” Bowers, said he had checked with the County Clerk and found the clerk’s office had not run the required public notice.
Mayor Leon Humphrey said his office had run two legal ads and that three of the four candidates had responded after the advertisements were run. He said the ads met the letter of the law.
County Attorney Keith Bowers asked if the ads had been run while Humphrey was chairman of the commission. Humphrey said the ads had been run at the time he was chairman. He said out of respect for the families of the deceased, the ads were spaced some time after the death of Potter and before that of Commissioner Paul Mottern, so that they did not appear in the newspaper too soon after the funeral.
Attorney Bowers was satisfied the legal requirement had been met and the commission voted to go ahead with the voting, but since one of the candidates was under a doctor’s care and could not attend and a second candidate had gone home when he had been told by Chairman Bowers there would not be an election, it was decided to keep a level playing field by not allowing any of the candidates in attendance to address the commission.
There was one other controversy before the vote was taken. Commissioner Ernest “Gebe” Ritchie said the commissioners from the 6th District should be the first ones called to give their vote.
Humphrey objected to Ritchie’s suggestion. He said every commissioner should cast his or her vote only after studying the matter carefully and should cast that vote based on what was best for the county. He said it was wrong for one commissioner to lead others.
Ritchie said he only made the motion as a courtesy.
The only other controversy was at the beginning of the meeting. Humphrey asked that the time for public comments be moved from near the end of the agenda so citizens could speak before the commission voted. His suggestion was not approved. The mayor also asked that comments he had made during the previous meeting about his reasons for stepping down be added to the minutes. His request was denied by a 16-8 vote.
Chairman Bowers further exercised his new powers by ordering Humphrey to leave his place on the judicial bench and take a seat with the other elected officials. Humphrey complied with the order.