The Wilson County Commission is set to fill the vacancy left by longtime District 17 Commissioner Gary Keith's retirement at its meeting Monday.

Keith, who made the decision to retire after heart problems kept him from regularly attending meetings, shared his thoughts on what he hopes to see from the appointed commissioner.

"We've got so many needs right now, and only certain sources of money," he said, naming the Wilson County Jail expansion as a priority. "It's not about the things you want to do ... the things you have to do come first. You don't want to raise property taxes to get there, but hopefully the commission will pass the sales tax so we get funding from out of county."

Once appointed through a simple majority commission vote, the new member will serve until the next general election on Aug. 6, 2020.

Registered voters of District 17 may submit written nominations to the county mayor's office before the meeting, or in person during the meeting (all official nominations must be made by the commission).

"We haven't had any written nominations so far (as of Tuesday, Oct. 15), but I'm sure people's names have been circulated,"

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Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said. "If a commissioner nominates someone at the meeting and they're present, they don't need to have a written submission."

Keith wants to see his son, James "Rusty" Keith, appointed to the position. Rusty Keith is the school resource officer at Gladeville Elementary School, and has worked as a full-time employee at the Wilson County Sheriff's Office for 15 years.

"I've always been community-minded, and this would be another way for me to serve the people of Wilson County," Rusty Keith said. "My main goal would be to try and do as well as my father has for the last 13 years. (After going through a heart procedure) he could have stayed home and drawn the check, but he's a man of such integrity that he made the decision (to retire)."

Rusty Keith said managing growth would be a top priority for him, citing his father's recent push to keep an area on Maple Hill Road from being rezoned from a rural residential district (R-1) to a suburban residential district (R-2).

"Maple Hill Road isn't a good enough road to accommodate that kind of traffic," he said, noting that an R-2 has a much higher population density than an R-1. "You need to have some infrastructure built up before you make a decision like that. My father was the one responsible for getting that voted down."

One of the commissioners who most frequently aligned with Gary Keith is District 6 Commissioner Kenny Reich, and the two built up a close friendship during their time on the commission.

"Gary and I came in together back in 2006," Reich said. "I reckon we've voted together on pretty much everything."

Moving forward may be an adjustment for Reich, but he looks forward to working with the appointee on decisions facing Wilson County.

"The county is in pretty good shape right now," he said. "We put funding in place on the new addition to the jail with the added facility tax … schools are in good shape and the judicial center project is sort of on hold, so money for Green Hill High School (in Mt. Juliet) is probably the biggest thing we're looking at come budget time."

With some of those larger-scale projects on the horizon, filling the vacancy is a priority for the county, and Hutto expects a productive meeting.

"I hope we have a good discussion at Monday's meeting, and we're looking forward to filling that position," Hutto said. "We have a great group of commissioners that give their heart and soul, and that makes it good to work with them."

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