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Venable re-elected as chairman of Sullivan County Commission

J.H. OSBORNE • Oct 17, 2019 at 11:05 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable will continue to serve as chairman of the Sullivan County Commission after a majority vote in his favor on Thursday.

The nominating process, as well as the voting procedure, was in marked contrast to a commission meeting last month when a group of commissioners led a divisive coup attempt against Venable — while he was at home resting prior to surgery the next morning.

At that September meeting, Commissioner Todd Broughton nominated Commissioner Hershel Glover to serve as chairman.

Heated debate followed when someone nominated Venable. Challenges were made because he wasn’t present. It all ended with a vote to delay selection of a chairman until this month (but by a narrow margin).

At the commission’s monthly meeting on Thursday evening, things started out pretty much the same: Commissioner Randy Morrell nominated Venable, who accepted the nomination, and Broughton again nominated Glover. But Glover, after voicing various concerns and desires about needing to move the county forward, declined the nomination.

The vote in Venable’s favor was 16 in favor, two absent (Commissioners Larry Crawford and Angie Stanley), and six abstains (Broughton, Joyce Crosswhite, Mark Hutton, Alicia Starnes and Doug Woods).

In his speech leading up to declining the nomination, Glover said he’d thought long and hard about the issue since last month’s meeting. Glover said he has known Venable for 25 years and if the situation were reversed and Venable was in his place — with other commissioners and people in the community telling him he could make Sullivan County a better place — he believed Venable would say yes.

Glover said he didn’t come to county government to divide the commission, but he didn’t come to be left out either. Glover said there are people who brag they’re longtime members of county government, and he had something to say to them: “Folks, we’re not in that good a shape,” Glover said.

At one point Glover talked at length about commissioners posting negative comments on Facebook and said such bashing needs to stop. Glover said commissioners shouldn’t be fighting with each other, but instead need to focus on fighting for the county’s taxpayers.

After winning the chairmanship vote, Venable thanked Glover for his comments and said what happened last month should not taint the commission’s future works. “We’re going to put that behind us and go forward,” Venable said. “I heard what you said. I will do my best to bring us all together.”

The commission’s next action re-elected Commissioner John Gardner to serve as speaker pro tempore (the person who performs the duties of the chairman when the chairman is unable to do so). Gardner received 15 “yes” votes, while Commissioner Joyce Crosswhite (nominated by Glover) received six “yes” votes.