Published 2:55 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2017

WINTON – “If I can’t give 100 percent, then I have nothing to give.”

Those words from veteran Hertford County Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer basically summed up his decision not to seek another term on the board.

Farmer made that announcement here Monday morning during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Commissioners. He has 16.5 years under his belt as a Commissioner and by the time his current term ends on Dec. 1, 2018, he will have represented his district and the entire county for 18 years.

“I will not be running for reelection,” said Farmer during the Commissioner Comments portion of Monday’s agenda. “Due to health problems and age, and I’m not that old, but with my health and my age it makes my life a lot different than it use to be.”

Farmer said he decided to make his intentions known immediately in order for those possibly thinking of seeking a seat on the Commission next year that his seat will be open.

Johnnie Ray Farmer

“I wanted to give anyone interested in seeking my seat on the board enough advance notice so they can begin the process of mapping out their political strategy and file for the seat,” Farmer stressed.

Farmer noted that he represents the Millennium/Murfreesboro/Como area of Hertford County.

“A candidate needs to live in that area, the western side of the county, if they want to file for my seat,” he stated.

Looking back over his long years of service as an elected official, Farmer stated he has many fond memories.

“It’s been my pleasure to serve,” he noted. “In my heart, I do not want to give up my seat on this board because I enjoy what I do. I enjoy being the referee between Commissioner Curtis Freeman and the NC DOT. I enjoy helping citizens when they have problems. But again, my health now limits me to the point where I can no longer give this position a full 100 percent.”

Farmer’s duties as a Commissioner includes seats on the North Carolina Health and Human Services Committee and the Peanut Belt Rural Planning Organization, a body that covers multiple counties in the northeastern part of the state. He is also active within the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners.

Prior to serving on the state’s Health and Human Services Committee, Farmer had a 12-year stint with the Board of Directors at Roanoke-Chowan Mental Health Services, seven of which he held the Chairman’s gavel.

“I’ve seen mental health services grow from four counties, to nine counties, to 19 counties and now to 24 counties with Trillium Health,” he said.

Through his association with the statewide agency, Farmer said he has been able to forge vital relationships that have benefitted both Hertford County and the entire Roanoke-Chowan area.

“I will miss this job,” Farmer shared, referencing his full scope over work for nearly 20 years. “But not to worry, if I see my colleagues on this board stepping too far one way, I’ll be sure to give them a call.”

Those colleagues shared their feelings for working with Farmer.

“I was hoping you were going to change your mind about retiring off the board,” said Commissioner Curtis Freeman who, like Farmer, is pushing 20 years on the board. “We understand why you’re not seeking another term, but we’re sad because we’re losing not only a great Commissioner, but losing a part of our family.”

Freeman praised Farmer’s work ethic.

“Despite his health, Johnnie is devoted to his work,” Freeman stressed. “You can’t replace that. He’s not a politician, he’s someone that truly cares about the people he represents. He’ll be missed, but we don’t need to act like this is his last meeting. We got you until December of next year and there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

Commissioner Bill Mitchell touted the impact that Farmer has had on the county during his long tenure of service.

“And I need to mention the positive impact Johnnie Ray has had on my two terms on this board,” Mitchell remarked. “I came to this board in 2008 with hardly no experience in local government and he’s been very helpful to me. Whoever comes and attempts to fill his shoes will have a tough act to follow. Thank you and God bless you Commissioner Farmer.”

The board’s newest member, John Horton, said he will save his goodbye to Farmer once December of next year rolls around.

“I will say at this time that I’ve enjoyed my association with Commissioner Farmer upon joining this board eight months ago,” Horton said.

As he so aptly stated back in 2014 upon seeking his fourth full term on the Board of Commissioners, Farmer was proud to have been a part of a team that was moving Hertford County forward.

“We have come a long way, Hertford County,” he said at that time. “We have a new court house, new office building, all new office furniture, a renovated social services building with more space in the works (now completed), new Senior Centers in Murfreesboro and soon in Ahoskie, longevity bonuses annually for our county employees instead of a country ham, Employee of the Quarter cash rewards, employee recognition for years of service, cost of living pay increases every year for past eight years, a new maintenance building, the Tunis Sewer District, and hiring additional employees for the county….all without raising taxes. Yes, we have come a long way and we will continue to grow and be better, making Hertford County a great place to live and work,” Farmer stated.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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