By Stan Welch
Anderson County Council members and a couple of organizations showered departing Councilmen Tom Allen (D4) and Ken Waters (D6) with affection and gifts during their last meeting of year.
Both men are veterans, of both the armed forces and the Council. Their military service – Waters was actually deployed when he ran for Council the first time – was the reason for their recognition by the Quilts of Valor Foundation (QVF). The Foundation creates hand made quilts and presents them to veterans in gratitude and recognition.
Thus far, since its founding in 2005, the foundation has presented more than two hundred thousand quilts nationwide. The local chapter, organized in 2014, has produced more than a thousand quilts, with more than four hundred provided this year alone. They have recently moved into a new home in the old McCants school building.
Tommy Forrest, county coordinator of the local chapter, explained that the quilts are meant to reflect three things; honor to the recipient for their service; thanks to the recipient for their sacrifices; and healing, peace and comfort to those wrapped in the quilts.
Both Waters and Allen were visibly moved by the presentation, called wrapping, in which the recipient is actually enclosed in the quilt. Allen also received additional recognition from members of the Anderson Air Show committee, for his championing of the event over the years. A framed print of the Canadian Snowbirds in formation and an enlarged photo of a pyrotechnic display by a squadron of A-1 Warthogs were presented to him.
County administrator Rusty Burns presented each man with a gift wrapped token of the county’s esteem, and told both men that they had earned the affection and admiration not just him, but of the county employees throughout. “This is a bittersweet occasion to say the least. The work you both have done for Anderson County cannot be overstated. Each Council member offered their own comments, with Chairman Dunn thanking both men for not just their support during the sometimes tumultuous early years they served, but also for their personal friendship. “Ken, I recall more than once when you returned from vacation to cast a crucial vote on a budget or something. And Tom, your guidance and opinions were of great value to me over the years.” He promised to maintain contact and to seek their counsel and advice.
Vice chairman Ray Graham echoed many of those sentiments, adding that when he and Councilman Craig Wooten first came on board the Council two years ago, both the incumbents went out of their way to help them settle in and learn the ropes. But it was Councilwoman Gracie Floyd who offered the highest praise of Allen, whom she sat next to on the Council dais for several years. Allen often assisted Floyd, both with occasional physical troubles as well as some of the finer points of various issues being considered; a consideration that often resulted in the ire of the Republican party’s right wing.
“Mr. Allen, you didn’t vote my way very often, but you were always willing to listen and to explain your position. Before God and man, I tell you that I love you and will miss you on the Council.
Both men spoke briefly – more or less. Allen praised Burns for his actions in the years just after the Preston administration, actions that Allen described as ‘crucial in keeping the county going’. He also challenged what he said was a common perception that his military career should have been great preparation for his role on Council. “I see it as just the opposite. In the military there is a chain of command. You know who has the clout, the control. You know where the bullets are coming from. But in politics? You don’t know any of that. You get shot at from every side.”
Waters, who lost his reelection bid to Jimmy Davis, said that he was proud of what the Council had accomplished during his tenure. “Unemployment was at thirteen per cent. Now, it’s just above three per cent. We have modernized the airport and reduced the burden that the convention center has been for years.”
On a personal note, he said that the friendships formed would not end. “We worked together, without selfishness for the people of Anderson county. It was a privilege to work for the people of District Six for the last eight years.”
By Stan Welch