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GOP chairman’s pledge request prompts flared tempers at Nelson Fiscal Court

From left, Nelson County Jailer Buck Snellen and Sheriff Ramon Pineiroa step between Magistrate Eric Shelburne (facing camera) and Don Thrasher.

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019 — Tempers flared Tuesday morning at the end of Nelson Fiscal Court’s meeting in connection with a request that the court begin its meetings with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Don Thrasher, chairman of the Nelson County Republican Party, asked the court to consider an ordinance that would require the court to begin its meetings with the Pledge.

After Thrasher explained the rationale for his request, Magistrate Eric Shelburne told Thrasher he didn’t believe he needed to say the Pledge prior to conducting business for the county. “I don’t need to do that to remind myself of the Pledge.”

Shelburne told Thrasher that he served four years in the military. He said that Thrasher’s request felt like he was questioning the court’s patriotism. Thrasher denied questioning Shelburne’s patriotism, and a shouting match began between the men.

After Watts restored order, he adjourned the meeting, and suggested the men take their discussion elsewhere. But as it turned out, the discussion was not yet over.

At the end of the meeting, Thrasher approached Shelburne to talk about the issue. The discussion quickly became heated again, with Thrasher admitting he was now indeed questioning Shelburne’s patriotism.

“That’s an insult to me, and its an insult to my service,” Shelburne replied.

Nelson County Sheriff Ramon Pineiroa and Nelson County Jailer Buck Snellen stepped forward to separate the two men. Thrasher then left, telling Sheburne that “the 55 voters you barely won by really appreciated that, brother.”

After the meeting, Watts told WBRT about Thrasher’s request and explained his view of the request.

“Don Thrasher has brought this up a number of times, and I’ve told him we’re not going to politicize a request like that,” Watts explained. “He said it isn’t political, however he is the chairman of the Republican Party and a former candidate for county judge.”

Watts said he agreed that Thrasher’s request felt like a question of the court members’ patriotism. He said there was also an allegation on social media that Watts removed the Pledge from the beginning of fiscal court meetings when he was elected judge executive.

Watts denied the charge, and said that the Pledge was not recited by the fiscal courts fo the two judge executives prior to Watts’ election.

“It doesn’t mean your not patriotic or care about your country (if you don’t recite it), its just not something we do at a court meeting.”

Magistrate Eric Shelburne gestures during his exchange with Don Thrasher during the Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019, meeting of Nelson Fiscal Court.

FLEX ROAD FUNDS. The court approved allowing Watts to sign the necessary documents for the county to receive an additional $132,837 in state “flex” funds.

The funds will go to help pave portions of four county roads:

— six-tenths of a mile of Ballard Lane;
— seven-tenths of a mile for Green Chapel Road;
— six-tenths of a mile of Milton Broad Road;
— six-tenths of a mile of Mobley Mill Road.

LIBRARY REPORT. Sharon Shanks, the director of the Nelson County Public Library, presented the court with its budget worksheet and advised the court it was setting its tax rate at 7.4 cents per $100 value on real estate and personal property.

The new rate represents the compensating rate — the tax rate that generates approximately the same amount of revenue as last year’s tax rate.

The new tax rate represents a reduction in the tax rate. Last year’s tax rate was 7.7 cents per $100 value on both real estate and personal property.

Shanks also provided the court with summary of all the services the library provides the communities, including serving as a location for more than 3,000 meetings for clubs and organizations.

In other business, the court:

— heard that the Labor Day holiday will delay garbage collection in the county by one day. Friday’s garbage will be collected on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

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