Thursday, January 3, 2008
Reception applauds outgoing officials
By SUE WATSON
A crowd of well-wishers said goodbye and thank you to four outgoing elected officials last week.
Present at a reception honoring Fred Belk Jr., Ronnie Johnson, John Garrison and Ralph Doxey were numbers of elected officials with Marshall County and the City of Holly Springs, county staff and friends and family.
Justice court judge Ernest Cunningham was responsible for suggesting a reception to recognize the service of the four. It was held in the new courtroom on Market Street, Thursday evening.
Coordinated by county administrator Larry Hall and helpful courthouse staff, Hall opened the reception with prefacing remarks including the reason for the occasion. Others made short impromptu speeches.
“We all work for the same people, so our children and grandchildren will have a better future,” he said. “We should do this once a month, since we all work here but don’t really get to visit. We are really one happy family.”
Judge Cunningham, after thanking the four for their public service, spoke of his journey in politics and how Fred Belk’s career and his had intersected.
“I especially want to thank Fred Belk who has been in the court system so long - 36 years,” he said. “We are so grateful for all he’s done. He has directed us - always taken time to do that.”
When Cunningham was first elected justice court judge he called on Belk for guidance, he said.
But Belk said the judge and the prosecutor shouldn’t talk too much since their official duties are separate.
“So, I said I needed him for his opinion,” Cunningham continued. “That’s one thing I have plenty of,” Belk replied.
Monet Autry, justice court clerk, spoke of her appreciation to Belk for his help in one of the worst times in Marshall County’s history, the murder of her brother, Sheriff Osborne Bell.
“I saw Fred get emotional and that was because of his ties to my family,” she said. “We love you and we appreciate you. We are going to keep looking for your advice.”
Belk expressed his gratitude to his co-workers.
“We’d like to think we knew a lot,” he said. “I’ve learned more from you all than you have of me.
“Never look back over your shoulder. Go forward with a smile.”
Supervisor Willie Flemon said he once worked for Belk and for Belk’s dad when he was a lawyer.
“It’s an honor to be able to stand here tonight and say, good job, well done,” Flemon said.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett shared some stories of how he got called to court for witnessing some neighbors feuding in the back yard.
The quip brought a chuckle to the audience. And he thanked Garrison and Johnson for their public service.
“I help round up Ronnie Johnson’s cows once in a while when they get out,” he said.
“I wish y’all the best in the world and it’s been wonderful working with you.”
Lucy Carpenter came up with an excuse to say a few words.
“I have to be like Flick Ash - don’t ever miss an opportunity to get up,” she quipped.
Then she talked of how seriously Johnson had taken his job.
“When we first got our computers - the AS/400 - passwords were hard to get and I was trying to get on the computer to clean up the voter rolls,” Carpenter said.
“At the same time, the county was doing its redistricting and Ronnie let me have his password. So I got going and one day I couldn’t log in. Ronnie had changed his password!”
Carpenter said she approached Johnson for a solution so she could get back on the computer.
“‘We can’t just give passwords out to everybody,’ ” he said.
“And Fred has taken care of us in court. I’m glad Mr. John (the coroner) has not had to pick me up on the side of the road, yet. I am not going to retire. I’m going to work until I drop.
“We’ve had some fine leadership in this county and I wish you all the best.”
Juanita Dillard, tax assessor-elect, said a few words about Belk, her first employer when she took a job with the Marshall Messenger.
“I was treated fairly and nice then,” she said. “Then I moved to Mr. Fant’s office and after he retired Mr. Ronnie Johnson begged us to stay.
“They’ve taught me a lot about how to treat people and how to be fair. And I haven’t seen too much of Mr. Garrison yet.”
Hall called Belk, Johnson and Garrison forward for more remarks.
“Each of them has a unique handshake,” he said. “But Mr. John is the only one who feels my pulse when we shake hands.
“It’s a pleasure and an honor for me to have worked around professional people like you all.”
Sen. Ralph Doxey was unable to attend the reception due to a legislative meeting in Jackson.
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