BY KARISSA MILLER
The Iredell County Board of Commissioners expressed its appreciation for the service of Vice Chairman Tommy Bowles and Commissioner Ken Robertson before two new commissioners were sworn in on Monday.
“I’m tickled to have been a part of the way this process works,” Bowles said. “I’m proud that we can disagree and we can civilly vote the issue, and we are friends when we walk out the door.”
Bowles, who did not run for re-election in 2020, said he’s grateful for what he’s learned and experienced during the past 10 years.
He thanked Chairman James Mallory for his leadership and thanked commissioners Marvin Norman, Gene Houpe, and Robertson for their wisdom and insights.
Bowles then told Houpe that when they first met he wasn’t sure that he would like him. However, he now considers him a good friend.
“You are a hard-working commissioner, and I’m proud to have sit here as part of the silver bullet team,” Bowles said.
He also took a moment to share some advice to the incoming board.
“The one bit of advice that I would like the board to move forward with is the library and department of recreation and any items that we aren’t mandated to fund, I think it would be in the best interest to find some funding stream to fund those items,” Bowles said.
Secondly, he said that he would like for the board to communicate directly with nonprofits. Having staff act as a go-between is not effective communication, Bowles added.
Robertson, who also decided not to seek another term, said that in honor of his 14 years of service he would share a 14-minute farewell address. He started by thanking the county employees who sometimes go unseen, including emergency services and mapping department.
“Nobody has free dinners for them. Nobody every mentions them. But they are an important part of what we do in the county,” Robertson said, of the mapping department.
Robertson, who is an Army veteran, used a Navy saying in his speech to recognize some other county departments.
“A captain cannot do much wrong so long as he pulls his ship alongside another,” he said, referring to going into battle one ship close to the next — no matter how big or small a ship is.
“It means get your ship in the fight to do some good. If you lost your part of the battle, the fact was you got in there and you made a difference,” Robertson said.
When you look at the COVID-19 pandemic, who responded to the call? The library staff, he said.
The Parks and Recreation Department went to work when activities were shut down during the pandemic. Robertson said that they painted buildings that the county would have to pay others to paint and they did a lot of maintenance work.
Robertson continued going through other county departments and described the important role that they play in the community. He mentioned that many county employees are also the ones that help out at their churches and can be seen volunteering with other organizations.
He expressed his confidence in the new leadership and personally thanked each commissioner for their contributions to the whole. Robertson closed by thanking the voters.
“One of the greatest honors and privileges of my life is being able to serve almost 200,000 voters of Iredell County. Thank you for letting me be here, I appreciate it,” Robertson said.
Chairman James Mallory said he’s been blessed to have a preacher (Robertson) and a professor (Bowles) on the board.
Mallory said Robertson served 12 years straight and then left the board, but came back to fulfill Commissioner Jeff McNeely’s term after McNeely resigned. He said that McNeely was working on transportation issues and that Robertson was able to step into that capacity.
“I knew that he would represent our county well,” Mallory said of his role with Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization.
He said that Robertson has served the board well and was knowledgeable in many areas, including rezoning, environmental issues and gave compelling presentations.
Mallory then thanked Bowles for his service to the citizens. He said that Bowles is the type of person that can make a four-hour meeting bearable and is someone that is dedicated.
“This is a great Christian gentleman that has a heart for serving people. He’s a foster parent and has taken on two task forces with our board that have involved him in multiple large meetings.”
He mentioned that one of Bowles’ behind the scenes contributions was serving on the public board of health and his work combatting the opioid epidemic.
Mallory presented plaques on behalf of the entire board to both Bowles and Robertson.