When people ask what I am most proud of from my years as county executive, they are often shocked that I don't talk about jobs and things like the Tennessee Riverpark. The two things I always mention first are appointing a woman and a black to department-head jobs.
The reason I say that is that the spirit of the people is the thing that matters most. When little black children and little girls watch county commission meetings and see blacks and women in top jobs performing in an outstanding way, you have something that will uplift the people.
Imagine a big county like Hamilton that has never had a woman or a black department head, and you have a shameful situation. You have something that is an embarrassment to all women and blacks. Believe this or not, even if I had known it would beat me in the next election, I would have still done it. After all, I had children and a mother, sister and wife. A man who doesn't have the guts to stand up for women and children does not need to be county executive. He needs to be run out of town.
The next thing I am most proud of is giving the people a professional government. For decades, I had seen good people elected, only to appoint a bunch of incompetent jerks and political hangers-on to run the government. You can't accomplish anything with these kinds of people.
When I was elected, I had one engineer. When I retired, we had six top-notch engineers and could carry out any kind of project with the city or anyone in the private sector.
When I was elected, the county didn't even have a personnel department or a federal grants expert. It was actually that pitiful.
When I knew I was ready to leave, I asked Jeannine Alday to run for executive because of all the people I had hired I felt she had the best judgment and management skills. I was greatly encouraged when Claude made her chief of staff, but I do not take any credit for it. Claude had observed the same skills in her that I had seen.
When Jeannine decided she didn't want to run, I urged Jerry Turner to run. Jerry was a Republican, but I could never let a thing like partisanship keep me from supporting the best person for the job. Jerry had good political judgment, character and the guts to take stands as needed. We lost a great pubic servant when Jerry passed away so young.
Once when I spoke to the Rotary Club, one person asked with a grin how a poor old outspoken Watering Trough boy like me got elected. I said, "It's because most of you think politics is beneath you. You may not look down on good elected persons, but I think you do look down on the political process."
It was my deepest desire to change the political process by placing quality people in all positions -- by giving people a government they could be proud of and letting our children know if they prepared themselves there might be a job waiting for them in their government.
Do these kinds of things really matter to you? I think that's something worth standing up for as long as we live.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.
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