Gary Pichon attended his last meeting as a county commissioner Thursday night.
Pichon, who has served as commissioner of District 1 for the past eight years, announced earlier this year he would not run for re-election. Sharon Fausett was sworn in last week as the District-1 commissioner. Her term begins in January.
Fellow commissioners may not have always agreed with Pichons viewpoints, but all said they had much respect for what he has done for Dawson County.
I have had the pleasure of sitting on the Board of Commissioners for six years with Gary and have personally learned a lot from him, District-2 Commissioner James Swafford said. I always found him to be a commissioner who would go into the woods, in the mud or in the office to better inform himself on the topic before the board. I always respected him as the most researched member of the board.
Said District-3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby, Hes been an asset to the county the whole time hes been here, the whole time hes lived here, and I believe he will continue to do that. Hes trustworthyyou dont have to worry about him doing something thats not positive for the county. His heart is in the right spot, and Im going to miss him. His leadership and integrity is far above question.
Board Chair Mike Berg agreed. Gary has a unique personality that really gave a lot of good wisdom to the board, Berg said. Well miss him. ... He really represented this area well.
District-4 Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix thanked Pichon for his service. Gary, thank you for your willingness to serve for the past eight years. You took many positive steps to better Dawson County and I appreciate it.
There are several steps Pichon said he felt the board should be proud of during his tenure. We have a group of competent, proven managers, and we have a strong bench behind each of them. Most of our employees work hard and take pride in their service and skills.
Pichon said he is also proud of the land-use plan the county has in place. We have a good future land use plan and the means to carry it into the future so that people will know what development should unfold which will affect their lives.
He also noted the countys low debt. We paid off the lingering jail debt and have built a fine public courthouse admin building for the future, at budget and on time. We should retire that debt next year.
But he said he is not without regrets. He said he regrets miscalling the length and extent of the recession. Because we missed that, we were spending money too fast, he said.
He also regrets not getting off the ground his idea of a grand park. Pichon said he has always had a desire to promote the countys outdoor recreation.
Regrets aside, Pichon said he enjoyed his time on the board of commissioners. Its been fun and you learn an awful lot of stuff that you didnt know. You get exposed to a whole bunch of problems you never thought existed. You get to meet a lot of people who labor in the darkness and are unrecognized.
Pichon said he is looking forward to traveling with his wife, Catherine. The two have planned a trip to Alaska in the spring. He also plans to teach woodworking classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
Pichon graduated from Vanderbilt University as a cadet battalion commander and went on to jump and ranger school. He later took to the corporate world, starting from the bottom and rising to the corporate suites in international paper and packaging.
I started out as the lowest guy in the organization and ended up running the division, Pichon said. You always learn more if you start out doing the basic work.
It was what Pichon learned in the military and corporate world that made his older brother, Dan Pichon, think he would be an excellent member of the county commission. I knew we needed his management, expertise, his vision and his experience, Dan said. He had traveled internationally, managed plants. ... He was very effective and very good at it.
In bidding the board farewell Thursday night, Pichon said this: Catherine and I have been blessed beyond measure. We could live anywhere in the world. We are not tied by habit or family obligations here in this place. But we like it among you and we plan on living at our Afton Road address in Dawson County in the best part of the Blue Ridge until the last sands of time run out for us and the great getting up in the morning arrives.
Until then I plan on calling my county commissioner Sharon about every week just to give her a piece of my mind. Assuming I still have a mind.