Board honors life of Kepley

Jun. 17, 2014 @ 11:50 AM

Three days after the death of one of its own, the Davidson County Board of Commissioners held its first meeting since Billy Joe Kepley died June 7 of an apparent heart attack.

With six of seven customary votes, commissioners unanimously approved the $125.3 million budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The county’s property tax rate remains unchanged under the terms of the new budget, set at 54 cents per $100 valuation, and although the board continued with business, Kepley remained a reiterating focal point throughout.

After Larry Potts, chairman of the board, gave a touching tribute to the former commissioner during the invocation, others displayed their own shows of respect for the man widely praised for devoting his career to representing the interests of his constituents. Barney W. Hill, a county political watchdog who frequently called into question decisions made by Kepley and his fellow commissioners, issued some rare kind words during his usual public address.

“Chuck Yeager never became an astronaut,” Hill said. “Learned Hand never sat on the United States Supreme Court. And Seabiscuit never won the Triple Crown. It is possible to reach the pinnacle by defying definition. Billy Joe Kepley did that. My life is immeasurably enriched because my path crossed his.”

Outside the government building in Lexington, flags were flown at half staff to honor Kepley. Inside, the commissioners paid their respects by having a little fun with the meeting’s consent agenda. In 22 years of service as commissioner, Kepley railed against the concept of a consent agenda, which is something he believed to be an unacceptable way to pass items during meetings.

As a means of silent protest, he had a longstanding tradition of abstaining from voting in favor of passing the consent agenda. On Tuesday night, six ‘no’ votes were uniformly – and unofficially – cast to block the passage of the consent agenda, which is featured at each of the county’s regular meetings.

The commissioners then took an official vote to unanimously pass items on the consent agenda, but quietly chuckled as they honored their colleague.

“Mr. Kepley never once voted for the consent agenda,” Potts said. “Even if he put something on it, he would vote against it. In honor of his long years of commitment to voting against the consent agenda, we all thought we would remember him in one particular way tonight.”

At the close of the meeting, Potts read a brief proclamation to honor Kepley that Steve Jarvis suggested should be presented to his surviving wife, Kathy, and children at a future meeting.

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 847-9911, or at