To the Editor:
Monday night, December 12, 2016, there will be a changing of the guard when two Oak Ridge City Council members “retire.” Both have been instrumental in bringing the dawn of a new day for the city. Neither can be accused of slacking their elected duties. And while their approaches have been different, their mutual goal was to make Oak Ridge the best city it could be. And, in a season of strange electoral occurrences, both chose not to run for re-election even though the odds were they would be voted back into office.
Councilwoman Trina Baughn and I, on occasion, have found ourselves on different sides of an issue or two. However, she has treated me and my ideas with respect. I have not been the exception. I hope I have behaved in the same manner.
In recent history, Trina probably has been the most prepared Council member to discuss the issues at hand. I will not forget her toting a black notebook (or two) holding her “homework” as she took her seat on the dais. In the wrong hands, minutiae can be boring. In Trina’s hands, they were generally irrefutable landmarks supporting her position. Being a person of strong disposition, Mrs. Baughn never wavered when her views were ridiculed or attacked. But she was also willing to compromise when unity was necessary.
At times, I thought Trina knew more about what was happening in city governance than the city manager did. No facet of her life was sacrificed on the altar of politics. Trina’s life is overflowing with an expanded consulting business, a daughter who was a child when Trina joined council and is now entering young womanhood and needs more “mommy” time, and is being given more responsibilities at her church, the High Places Community Church based in the historic Grove Center.
But I am sure Mrs. Baughn is not going to ride off into the sunset. I fully expect to seeing her express her views during the public comments section of council meetings and reading her well documented letters to the editor when her voice is needed to provide a clarion call to action. Personally, we were friends when Trina Baughn joined council. We are still friends as she retires.
It was a shock to my system when I heard that Charles “Charlie” Hensley would not run for re-election. I have had the privilege of knowing and working with some of the finest solons on the local, state, and national levels. Charlie ranks among them.
Over a decade ago, he was among the first citizens of this city who became a trusted friend. With Charlie, what you see is what you get. Honesty, humility, and humor are some of his character traits. And, being a private pilot, he has seen this city from above and has brought this aerial perspective to the Council chamber. He has gone out of his way to seek the thoughts of the citizenry on issues of the day. And the man is unflappable.
Charlie is also a major supporter of, among others, the Oak Ridge Playhouse, public radio station WUOT, the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, several civic associations, and the athletic program of the Oak Ridge High School. As a WUOT volunteer answering phones during pledge week, I personally know that Charlie is among the first callers to renew his pledge and adds to it as special occasions pop up, like Pet Pledge Day.
Charlie has recently become a grandfather. While some “politicians” retire to have more “family time” (that is, face losing an election), Charlie is relinquishing the reins so he can devote more time to this bundle of joy. Being a grandfather of a certain age myself, I can appreciate his reasoning.
So, on Monday night two new people will be sworn in as Oak Ridge City Council members. Messrs. Jim Dodson and Hans Vogel will occupy the seats once held by the individuals mentioned above. But they cannot replace them. Oak Ridge is a better place to live and work thanks to the efforts of Councilwoman Baughn and Councilman Hensley. And, along with the re-election of Chuck Hope, we look to a future of progress for our city.
Gene R. Dunaway
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