By Brad Hicks
The vacant seat on the Unicoi County Commission once held by the late Walter J. Garland, a former Unicoi County sheriff and chief deputy, as well as policeman for the town of Erwin, will now be filled by a fellow lawman.
On Monday, July 25, the Unicoi County Commission appointed Todd Wilcox, an officer/detective with the Erwin Police Department, to fill the 3rd District seat on the panel left vacant due to Garland’s death in late May.
Following Monday’s meeting, Wilcox called the appointment “overwhelming.”
“I came in here and I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” he said. “I was hoping I was going to get it. If not, when another election came up, I’d try it then. I’m thankful to get it.”
Wilcox, a Unicoi County native, has been employed by the Erwin Police Department since September 2010. He has also served as a combat medic with the U.S. Army National Guard since April 2015.
Wilcox worked as an officer for the Wise, Va., Police Department from November 2009 to September 2010, and as a deputy with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department from September 2007 to November 2009. He also served with the 134th Security Forces Squadron of the U.S. Air Force National Guard at Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport from November 2006 to March 2008, and served with the 78th Security Forces Squadron of the U.S. Air Force at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Ga., from February 2005 to November 2006.
A 2001 graduate of Unicoi County High School, Wilcox earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from East Tennessee State University in 2013 and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Homeland Security from the American Military University.
Wilcox is also a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and served on the Unicoi County Civil Service Board from 2014 to 2015. Wilcox said he enjoys serving the county and feels a spot on the county commission will allow to further serve the community. Wilcox said while he will take a particular interest in the needs of the 3rd District, he hopes to act in the best interests of Unicoi County as a whole.
“I’m looking forward to serving,” he said. “I love this county. I’ve elected to stay here, and I’ve dedicated my life to serving people in law enforcement and hopefully in this capacity, too.”
Wilcox’s appointment came on the Unicoi County Commission’s first round of voting. The panel opted to nominate each of the five people who previously submitted resumes to County Mayor Greg Lynch’s offices in the hopes of filling the vacancy.
The five to submit resumes were Wilcox, Kenneth S. Calain, Franklin W. Cooke, James A. McLellan and Jonathan Clint Miller.
Commissioner Bridget Peters, who represents the county’s 3rd District, nominated Wilcox, and fellow 3rd District Commissioner John Mosley nominated McLellan. After Commissioner Kenneth Garland, Walter Garland’s brother, nominated Cooke and Calain, Mosley also nominated Miller.
“I think all five ought to have a chance,” Kenneth Garland said.
A roll call vote was taken, with each of the eight commissioners present providing the name of the candidate they wished to fill the vacancy. The first candidate to receive five votes – the majority of the Unicoi County Commission – was to earn the appointment.
Along with Peters, commissioners Jason Harris, Kenneth Garland, Marie Rice and Gene Wilson cast votes for Wilcox. McLellan received votes from commissioners Glenn White, Loren Thomas and Mosley.
A photograph of Walter Garland, who passed away on May 27, was placed on the table at the seat on the county commission he had occupied since his election in 2014. Several commissioners commented on Garland and his service to the community prior to Wilcox’s appointment.
“It was an honor serving with Walter J. Garland on the county commission,” said Rice, who serves as chairwoman of the Unicoi County Commission. “I know that we’re all going to miss him, and we’re just going to keep his family in our prayers.”
In his invocation to open Monday’s meeting, White asked those in attendance to keep Garland’s family in their prayers.
“I enjoyed his friendship,” White said. “He reminded me of my father in a lot of ways, and he was just a fabulous, magnificent man.”
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In other business, the commission approved a resolution to increase the county’s litigation tax for a judge’s salary from $30 to $35 for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
According to the resolution, Tennessee Code Annotated 16-15-5006 permits counties to impose a local litigation tax on each civil case and each criminal conviction in the county’s general sessions court in order to pay the salary supplements and adjustments for general sessions court judges.
The $35 local litigation tax will fully fund the salary and supplements for the county’s General Sessions Court judge, according to the resolution.
The commission also approved Lynch’s appointment of Kenneth Garland to the Unicoi County Animal Welfare Board. Garland, who is replacing Judy King on the board, was appointed to a three-year term.
The commission also heard from Kristin Anders and Jamie Rice, co-owners of The Bramble Event Space and Venue located in downtown Erwin, regarding upcoming events organized by a local group known as RISE, which stands for Rejuvenate, Invest, Support and Energize.
Anders and Rice discussed the group’s plans to bring a farmer’s market to downtown Erwin with the aim of increasing foot traffic and boosting economic development in the area, and next month’s Erwin Elephant Revival.
Events to coincide with the Erwin Elephant Revival, which is being held prior to the 100-year anniversary of the hanging of the circus elephant Mary in Erwin and to raise funds for the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, include the “Trunk Show” antique car show on Aug. 25, the Low-Country Boil Charity Dinner on Aug. 26 and events on Aug. 27 to include a kids’ zone and parade.