Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

January 31, 2013

Gary's World: County will miss Safdie's voice

By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer

CROSSVILLE — I had a feeling of sadness, but complete understanding, when 2nd District County Commissioner Robert Safdie turned in his resignation letter to Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. earlier this week. He told me personally later that night.

Safdie resigned his seat on the county commission as of Jan. 31 and there is a story on page one of today's Crossville Chronicle.

I say sadness because I know it had to be an extremely hard decision for Robbie to make. Not only do I respect him as a county commissioner, but as a good friend. But let me make this clear, even though we are friends, I haven't agreed with him on some issues, or the stand he has taken on those issues, but I respected his opinion and dedication to his district.

On those occasions, Robbie will be the first person to tell you that I either called him after the meeting or asked him directly after the meeting, "What were you thinking?" Or "Why did you vote that way? What was your reasoning?"

I must say his reasoning has always been from the heart and not a hidden, political agenda.

Despite my feelings about any subject the county is debating, it is my job to put away my personal feelings and report the action taken at the meeting and reflect the mood of the meeting. As a human, sometimes that isn't easy, but I do it because it is my job.

I have covered county commission and county government for the Chronicle as my steady beat for almost 10 years. Before that, I covered the board of education, which Robbie served on for several years prior to being elected to county commission.

Honestly, I can tell you that I am friends with most of the county commissioners. It's hard not to be — especially when you consider the amount of time we all spend together during meetings, especially during budget deliberations when meetings are twice a week and several hours long.

Sometimes people get silly after being cooped up in a room together that long, having heavy conversations and debates. County commissioners and reporters are no exceptions in this case and sometimes jokes and comments are made to make light of a situation as a coping mechanism.

Although there are friendships among us, the commissioners all know I have a job to do and I know they have a job to do. It's a mutual understanding and agreement.

There aren't too many people like Robbie who embrace a challenge and attack it with excitement and enthusiasm. He is a person who is willing and not afraid to show his feelings publicly regarding an issue. For that, he will always have my respect. I respect all of the county commissioners and board of education members. Holding a public office is not an easy task and those who do are subject to the scrutiny of the public at all times. But that is part of what you sign up for when running for public office.

Whether in a meeting or in the grocery store, these people are under a microscope and answer to the public for their actions. At times it is a thankless job and those who serve the public in these positions do deserve respect, whether we agree with them on a subject or not.

I know I will miss Robbie's voice of reason on the county commission and his everlasting gusto and determination to look at an issue from both sides of the fence and from all angles. Sometimes he will painstakingly do that, which is why I know it had to be a hard decision for him to make. I know the second district will miss his voice as well.

As Robbie said in his statement to the Chronicle, he could never be satisfied doing a job half-right and so, out of concerns for his health, he decided it would be best to resign and concentrate on his health issues.

I would like to publicly thank Robbie for his years of dedication to the Cumberland County Commission, the Board of Education and his service to the community.

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Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com.