Tennessee honored for 22-plus years of service

Published 8:28 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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The Southampton County Planning Commission opened its December meeting by honoring a former member, Keith L. Tennessee Sr., for more than 22 years of outstanding service to the people of the county while serving as a commissioner.

After calling Tennessee forward, Newsoms District Commissioner and Commission Chairman Michael G. Drake said, “Mr. Tennessee, it gives me great pleasure to come tonight to present this resolution from the Southampton County Planning Commission for all your years of dedication. And I think I speak on behalf of the Planning Commission that we appreciate all that you have done, and I would like, sir, to read the resolution, as presented.”

Drake noted that it was signed and unanimously adopted by the commission back in June, so it is dated in June.


“Whereas, Keith L. Tennessee Sr., has served as a valuable member of the Southampton County Planning Commission from Oct. 14, 1999, until March 18, 2022; and

“Whereas, Keith L. Tennessee Sr. has unselfishly given of his time and talents to effectively promote the health, the safety, prosperity and orderly development of Southampton County, including conservation of its natural and historic resources through development of the numerous comprehensive plans and through development of and subsequent revisions to the Southampton County zoning and subdivision ordinances; and

“Whereas, his broad knowledge of Southampton County and the concern for its citizens contributed immensely to the Planning Commission’s efforts in effectively balancing growth and development;

“Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Southampton County Planning Commission that Keith L. Tennessee Sr. is recognized and commended for 22 years and five months of devoted service to the people of Southampton County as an esteemed member of the Planning Commission; and

“Be it further resolved that a copy of this resolution be spread upon the minutes of this commission on the ninth day of June 2022, serving to record and forever preserve its gratitude and appreciation; and

“Be it further resolved that a framed copy of this resolution be presented to Keith L. Tennessee Sr. as a visual token of the high esteem in which he is held by this commission and the people of Southampton County, Virginia.”


Drake noted that when he himself first joined the commission, Tennessee was a notable help to him, using his experience to help acclimate Drake to the role of commissioner.

“It’s been a long road, and I treasure all the encouragement you gave me along the way,” Drake said.

Southampton County Community Development Director Beth Lewis praised Tennessee for his valuable contributions to the commission, all while he navigated a demanding work schedule with Dominion Energy.

“He was a great addition to the Planning Commission,” she said.

At the conclusion of Drake’s reading of the resolution, Jerusalem District Commissioner and Commission Vice Chairman Jack T. Randall called for a standing ovation for Tennessee’s fine service.

Later Randall told Tennessee, “We didn’t always agree — we agreed more times than not — but I really enjoyed the debate with you, because sometimes we could disagree, but it was always easy for me to debate you because you were always rational and analytical.”

Randall noted that sometimes debate refines, and different perspectives are very important.

“I think that having the different perspectives, like you’ve brought me on many occasions, it’s made me think and do more critical thinking, and I thank you for that,” he said.


Addressing the whole commission after its standing ovation, Tennessee said, “I’d just like to say that of the 22 years that I served, I enjoyed every moment of it. I feel like we did a lot of good work. There were some times that we didn’t always agree, but as (Governing Body Representative) Dr. (Alan W.) Edwards would always say, ‘If everybody agrees, it probably means nobody’s thinking.’”

Tennessee said he had the privilege of serving with a lot of different people, including esteemed elders in the community.

“For the longest time, Jack, I was the youngest guy (on the commission), and then that changed,” he said to Randall.

“But I thought we did a lot of good work,” Tennessee continued. “To my knowledge, I think we only had two recommendations that the Board of Supervisors didn’t agree with. There’s some things I think we could have done better, but I think we did the best we could at the time that we had to work with. It was a pleasure to serve with each of you. 

“I’m very thankful for the staff, Ms. Lewis, always there to answer any questions that we had, or I had, or to be able to communicate whether meetings were going to happen or not and so forth,” he added. “We made it through a pandemic.”

He then shared a glimpse at his future plans.

“I’m not done,” he said. “I hope to come back and serve in a higher capacity at some point or at least be a part of Southampton County’s decision-making body in some form or fashion. Thank you.”