Patterson makes history with six commission terms

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

It was a bit of history in the making.

When Lawrence County Commissioner George Patterson laid his hand on The Bible Thursday morning and was sworn in for his new term that starts Jan. 3, he was setting a new record.

Patterson's sixth term as county commissioner beats the old record set in the 1970s by fellow Democrat Buddy Kaiser, who served five terms.

Email newsletter signup

"It's been a blessing," Patterson said, adding that he is reminded of the Bible verse 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

"In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Patterson was first sworn in as commissioner in 1983. He served one term and lost an election. In 1990 he won election again and has served five straight terms since then.

A lot has changed in the last 21 years. For one thing, county money has been harder to come by because Uncle Sam is giving less and the state is demanding more, Patterson said.

"We used to get federal Revenue Sharing checks that would be $300,000 or $400,000 dollars a year. We don't get that anymore. Then there are the changes the state makes, all the unfunded mandates. So we have less budget to work with. Costs are going up."

When he first began serving, the other two faces on the commission belonged to Donald Lambert and Mark Malone. Now on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the commission meets, he is flanked by Republican Jason Stephens and fellow Democrat Doug Malone.

Throughout the last 21 years, Patterson said one thing has remained constant: the support of his wife, Mary, their family and friends who even pitch in and work on his campaigns when election time rolls around.

Patterson's tenure is notable not only because of its length but because he is a Democrat in a county dominated by Republican officeholders. Fellow Democrats such as Lawrence County Democratic party chair Craig Allen said Patterson continues to have popular support because people see value for their vote.

"George and I have been friends for a long time and I think he does a great job. Obviously the voters think so too or they would not have returned him to office so many times," Allen said. "He returns phone calls and answers his mail. As you are aware this is something a lot of people don't do anymore. He works at it all the time, he doesn't just think of it as a part-time job.

"He's accessible to the public, goes to a lot of public meetings and spends a lot of time at the courthouse. I think the proof is in the pudding. I think it proves if you do your job and take care of the public, the public will take care of you."