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Citizens Speaks Out Again as Commission Vows Never to Propose County Powers Act

Among the speakers during Monday’s commission meeting was Bernadette Pajer who described the county’s proposed powers act as “ overreaching, and absolutely dangerous”.

The Hawkins County Commission voted 13-1 Monday in favor of a resolution agreeing never to adopt a General Powers resolution to give the commission the authority to regulate private property in unincorporated areas.

Monday’s resolution was presented by Commissioner Josh Gilliam, who acknowledged that there’s nothing permanent about what the commission approved.

“I think a lot of folks would like us to guarantee that a future commission will never rescind this,” Gilliam said. “That’s just not possible. I know some people have publicly stated that this resolution is not worth anything because it can be rescinded. That’s true of anything that we pass. Anything that we pass, we can undo it next month, or the next commission can undo it.”

Gilliam added, “What I’ll tell you is that elections matter, and folks need to stay informed. There’s no way folks sitting here can guarantee what’s going to be done in the future.”

The only “nay” vote to Gilliam’s resolution was cast by Commissioner Larry Clonce who said some regulation is needed to protect homeowners from neighbors whose actions hurt their quality of life and/or property values.

Clonce was the only commissioner who spoke in favor of the proposed County Powers resolution, which was placed on the commission’s August agenda, and then withdrawn amid a massive outcry of opposition from citizens.

On Monday Clonce questioned whether the group which was so adamantly opposed to the county powers resolution actually represents the majority of county residents.

Clonce pointed to a recent situation on Jim Town Road where a property owner planned on opening a quarry near a residential community, utilizing explosives, and hauling rock with heavy trucks on a one lane road.

“Those people certainly wished that we had some regulations to stop that,” Clonce said. “…Since that time people from all over Hawkins County have come to the commission, and called each one of us, ‘Hey do something about this meth house over here’; ‘do something about this commercial chicken house that stinks so bad I can’t stand it’; and other problems like that. We thought we were doing what the people of Hawkins County wanted us to do.”

‘Meth houses and trash’

As was the case at the August meeting, the vast majority of Monday’s commission meeting audience was opposed to the original powers resolution. They let Clonce know it with catcalls and interruptions as he tried to explain his point of view.

Clonce added, “I understand your concern. I don’t want to tell anybody what to do. I heard at the last meeting, if it’s ever brought up again, bring it before a referendum. You people here tonight certainly have a voice, and I respect that. I don’t know if you’re the majority of Hawkins County because most Hawkins Countians I know were raised poor, and worked six or seven days a week like I did to pay for a home. They certainly don’t want their neighborhood full of meth houses and trash.”

Officially nine people spoke out against the county powers resolution during the citizens comments portion of Monday’s meeting. Many others made their opinions known from the crowd.

The August commission meeting at the Courthouse was overcrowded and the majority of attendees had to watch the Review’s Facebook live stream in the hallway. As a result, Monday’s meeting was held in the Rogersville Middle School gymnasium which had enough room to accommodate the large crowd.

A video of the entire discussion, including citizens comments and the final vote, can be seen in the online version of this article at

‘How will they abuse these powers’

Among the speakers was Bernadette Pajer whose words reflected the sentiments of several other speakers and audience members. Pajer said she, her husband, and their son moved to East Tennessee from Washington State to escape “The growing tyranny and socialist minded elected officials in the state of Washington.”

“We felt freedom here in the people and the commissioners of Hawkins County,” Pajer said. “I’m not going to repeat about last month’s resolution. You all know what it contained, and why it was so broad, and overreaching, and absolutely dangerous to this great republic of ours. I think you understand that. The past years have been a learning lesson for all of us as Americans. We’re all figuring out how to be Americans, how to be citizens. How to be commissioners.”

Pajer added, “The danger of putting words on paper for people who come after you — how will they abuse these powers if you put them in place. Since the founding of Hawkins County in 1787, order and peace have been maintained without local government possessing unconstitutional powers. We can, and must continue to maintain order and peace, but within the framework of constitutionally consistent laws, and systems that are already at our disposal to settle disputes, prevent crime, and protect the health and welfare of the community.”

Jeff Bobo, Editor

Published in The Rogersville Review - Sep 28, 2023

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