County and city leaders remembered longtime public servant Gary Keith, who Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Keith, 72, resigned from the Wilson County Commission in September because of health reasons. The Bowling Green, Ky., native spent more than 50 years in public service in Lebanon and Wilson County.
“He was, in every sense of the word, a true leader for us,” Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said.
“He was a true public servant. He spent his entire adult life in public service,” Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said. “There’s no telling how many people he’s helped over his entire career. He’s going to be sadly missed by this department and the whole county.”
Keith also served more than 25 years with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office. Former Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said he became close friends with Keith in the late 1970s.
“When I became sheriff, I went and asked him to work for me,” Ashe said. “He was my go-to guy. There wasn’t a problem too big he wouldn’t take on if you asked him. His impact, especially in city and county government, is pretty substantial.”
“He cared about people, and loyalty was probably his best quality. He was a man of his word. If he said he was going to do it, you could go to the bank with it,” Hutto said.
Lebanon Police Chief Mike Justice served on the Wilson County Commission with Keith, including as members of several committees.
“We basically came on together and spent about 12 years together. Gary and I were normally of the same mindset. The two words that come to mind about Gary are honesty and integrity. If he told you something, it was the truth and he stood by it,” Justice said.
He also served on the Lebanon City Council and with the Lebanon Police Department. His other roles with the City of Lebanon included: Parks and Recreation Director, Safety Director, Assistant Commissioner of Public Works and Commissioner of Public Works.
He began his service on the Wilson County Commission in 2006.
“Gary has his fingerprints all over Lebanon and Wilson County. He’s done a lot,” Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash said. “He was one of those people who if he could help you, he would. If he told you something, you could take it to the bank. It was just the truth.”
“Commissioner Keith was always good in my mind of leading the commission to know the facts. They could vote like they wanted to vote, but he wanted to make sure that everybody knew the facts and, probably, what was in our best interest,” Hutto said.
Hutto said some of Keith’s major involvements included the Wilson County Jail expansion, the Mt. Juliet Library expansion and the building of the Wilson County Veterans Plaza.
“Gary was fond of trying to push the county forward, as far as projects. Gary had a hand in building every school we’ve built in the last 12 years. He’s led this new commission up to the jail expansions and court room things,” Justice said.
“Gary never made a quick decision. He always thought his decisions through, which a lot of people don’t do nowadays,” Ashe said. “He will be missed. HIs fingerprints are on a lot of things.”
“If you didn’t want to get it done, you didn’t tell Gary because he was going to get it done. He was very motivated in anything he did. He was my true friend and I’m going to miss him. Our prayers are with the family,” Bryan said.