By PATRICK HALL
The Wilson Post
District 23 Wilson County Commissioner Bernie Ash was named the new County Director of Veterans Services Thursday morning after a hiring panels first choice, David Roberts, declined to take the position.
Ash said he was very honored to take the position and noted he will hit the ground running and work with Carol Dedman, assistant service officer, to get up to speed on how the office operates.
The first thing Ash said he would do was extend the office hours currently set at 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., to 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. instead, giving veterans who work a chance to come in later in the day and still receive assistance.
The door is always open, Ash said.
Ash said he would be attending the meetings of local veterans groups and noted he already attends the Vietnam Veterans of America meetings, but said he will try to arrange the Wilson County Budget Committee meetings so that he may attend other veterans groups meetings.
I want you to know I will be out working in the community, Ash said, referring to spreading the word about the Veterans Services Office and making sure veterans get the benefits they deserve.
While Ash was named the new Director, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto pointed out he was not the first choice. During the process, the hiring committee of Hutto, County Human Resources Director Alanna Sullivan and three veterans, chose Roberts to be the new director.
We selected, unanimously, David Roberts, but he turned me down, Hutto said.
Roberts came to the announcement and spoke to the veterans in attendance. During interviews on Jan. 12, veterans who attended had the chance to vote on which candidate they would prefer be given the position. Hutto said Roberts received the largest number of votes from the veterans.
An opportunity had come up for me to start my own business and run it from home, Roberts said.
He explained the opportunity to run his own business and spend more time with his wife and children was one he could not pass up. Robert thanked the veterans who voted for him and the hiring committee for selecting him and apologized for pulling out so late.
Roberts offered his design for a Veterans Services office logo to the county if they choose to use it and said when the new veterans museum opens, he has a lot of equipment, uniforms and items to donate.
Hutto said when Roberts declined, he had the option to either open the process back up again or ask the committee if they had a second choice. While discussing it with the committee, Hutto said Ash received the second-highest number of votes from veterans during the January interviews.
All but one said I think the second choice would be Bernie Ash, your second vote was Bernie Ash, Hutto told veterans in attendance Thursday.
Hutto said there were several tasks he hopes Ash will take up in the new position, including overseeing the construction of the Veterans Park and museum that is currently being designed by a group of local architects.
Hutto wanted Ash to give a quarterly report to the commission and to local veterans, create an email database to get information out to local veterans quicker and easier, and create a calendar of events each month so veterans know what is happening in their community.
I asked him to make a commercial to show whats going on with Veterans Services, Hutto said, pointing out that can be done for free with both major local cable providers.
While Ash serves as a county commissioner, Hutto said he spoke with County Attorney Mike Jennings about a possible conflict of interest. He said Jennings didnt see a problem with Ash holding the two positions, but would remain on the issue in case a conflict developed.
There are several county employees serving on the commission, ranging from Wilson County Sheriffs deputies to Public Safety Officers and teachers. When voting on matters that affect those county employees directly, each has to take an oath that they are aware of a conflict of interest and promise to vote as an impartial representative of their district.
A veteran in attendance asked Ash if a conflict arose, which position would he resign. I would give up the commission position, no question about it, Ash said.
Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.