On Monday, December 7, Ray Gasperson ended his 12-year run on as a Polk County Commissioner. As he entered the Womack Building for his final meeting, he was greeted by a large group of grateful Democrats who were there to thank him and see him off. Everyone was masked, and we were well-distanced except for a brief moment when we closed ranks for the photo above. Ray was overwhelmed; he described it as "one of the high points of my life."
This is the end of a chapter, but not of the book. Ray has not closed out the possibility of running again in 2022. During the meeting, Ray gave a farewell message, which is reproduced here in its entirety:
When I review my 12 years on the Polk Board of Commissioners, my frequent approach toward contentious issues on which the BOC needed to take action would result in me on many occasions getting myself into “Good Trouble." This is a phrase coined by the late Representative from Georgia John Lewis. As Representative Lewis would say, “Good trouble philosophy is very simple, when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, say something, do something, get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” I believe this philosophy helps summarize the approach I took as Commissioner. I have always focused on taking the necessary actions that would put the interests of all the citizens of Polk County first and foremost, regardless of political affiliation.
10 years ago, during the process needed to approve the site and build the county DSS building, known as the Howard B. Greene Human Services Building, I got myself into whole lot of “good trouble." It proved to be a very contentious issue, especially with many members of the community, for a desperately needed project that I was spearheading. Fortunately, in the end, the majority of the Board worked with me to see this project to completion. Through the years I have frequently engaged in “good trouble” over many issues, for example (just to name a few): zoning, subdivision regulation, Lake Adger and waterlines, annual county budgets, county revaluations, county personnel, and county Health District issues. Even though I often felt like a “voice in the wilderness,” I was always working to find common ground with the public and other members of the Board. And, more often than not, through compromise we did find common ground.
The “good trouble” that I created over the location of the new Sheriff office and Detention Center has been proved to be one of the most positive for me. Five years ago, the other four members of the Board, at that time, had chosen a location that I was convinced was inferior and would prove to be very problematic. Fortunately I was able to work behind the scenes to help secure the option to purchase the site were the new Sheriff office and jail is now located. The vote for this property purchase was unanimous! And, as a major bonus, we also now have a prepared site for a future Polk County Courthouse and County Government Services Building.
It’s important for me to note that the current members of the Board have worked very well together. Over the last couple of years this has greatly reduced me engaging in “good trouble.”
I am convinced that doing the hard work of having a vibrant and healthy democracy often requires getting into “good trouble.” My challenge for all citizens of Polk County is to commit yourselves to doing the hard work of democracy, and when necessary, not hesitating getting into “good trouble.”
Finally, I would like to again thank the citizens of Polk County. My journey over the last 12 years serving on the Polk County Board of Commissioners has been one of the most challenging and satisfying experiences of my adult life. I have had the privilege to work with many remarkable and talented elected officials, county employees and volunteers all striving to make our county an excellent place to live, work, play, raise families, be educated and worship. I am very grateful to everyone who has supported me through several election cycles and years of public service, especially my wife Sue and my adult children Laura, Corey and Julia. I realize that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” And now for me, the time has arrived to transition from serving as a Commissioner to other purposes and experiences. Of course I will continue to work to improve our county and, most likely, will occasionally get into “good trouble.”
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