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Ronald Murphy objects to comment by city mayor concerning Dry Run Utility; Lawrence Keeble apologizes

Editor’s note: Mr. Ronald Murphy, manager of Dry Run Utility District, wrote the following letter pertaining to a comment by Mountain City Mayor Lawrence Keeble at the October 20, 2016 meeting of the Johnson County Commissioners. Although The Tomahawk’s practice is to print letters in the Op-Ed section of the paper, in this instance it seems appropriate and fair to run both Mr. Murphy’s letter and Mayor Keeble’s apology on the same page of the original article. Following Mr. Murphy’s letter are Mayor Keeble’s comments as well as Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter’s comments during the commissioners’ meeting. When speaking with Mayor Potter on Monday, he asked that his comments be published.  Mr. Ronald Kalous, a Dry Run Utility commissioner, also wrote a letter in support of Mr. Murphy.

Dear Editor:
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to defend yourself. Especially if you feel as if you’ve been treated unfairly, or if comments made about you and your work are unfounded.
Such is the case of Mountain City Mayor Lawrence Keeble’s comments at the recent Johnson County Commission meeting of October 20, where according to Tomahawk reporter Rebecca Herman, “A public hearing was held to approve the consolidating of the Dry Run Utility District with the town of Mountain City.” It was during this meeting that Mayor Keeble said, “They (Dry Run Utility District) want to resolve themselves. There has been poor management and they are aging out. It’s not that we want to do this, but it is just a matter of time before the state will turn it over to the county anyway.”
It’s the statement about poor management by the mayor that I take displeasure with, and one I think he should reconsider.
Perhaps, Mayor Keeble has conveniently failed to remember that in June, a state representative from the Tennessee Environmental Division of Water Supply said that the Dry Run Utility District was rated as one of the top operational utilities in the eight counties of East Tennessee. May I remind the mayor he was present at that meeting? In fact, Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter was also present at that same meeting, and which begs this question. Why didn’t Mayor Potter refute what Mayor Keeble said about “there (being) poor management” at the Dry Run Utility District during the County Commission meeting?
In fact, I would like Mayor Keeble to explain his comments regarding the poor management issue, where his information came from and to whose advantage comments like this will benefit. Certainly not mine.
Of course, there is the remote possibility that should Mayor Keeble be reelected on November 8, he could use this poor management issue to his advantage by showing how quickly his administration turned the Dry Run Utility District around.
That, however, is not possible, because during my twenty-two years at the helm of Dry Run Utility District, not only has the entire system been upgraded, the leaks repaired, and complaints reduced to a minimum, but a debt of $225,000 to the federal government was paid off and we now have a cash surplus of approximately $300,000.
Furthermore, Dry Run has on more than one occasion received a perfect grade of 100 from state inspectors.
This is not a result of poor management, but rather the result of someone dedicated to doing his job. I might also mention that during my twenty-two years at Dry Run, I have never taken a vacation either.
However, as for the mayor’s comment about “aging out,” long ago I passed the age of retirement but found it necessary to continue to provide my customers with the best water service possible. So, after all these years, it’s come down to having to defend my work? It shouldn’t be this way. Therefore, having listened to the recording of the County Commission’s meeting and Mayor Keeble’s comments, I firmly believe he should rectify the situation and apologize to the community and myself immediately.
Ron Murphy
Dry Run Utility District
Butler, TN


“This is a public apology. Refer to the article about the County Commission meeting on October 20, 2016 in the October 26, 2016 edition of The Tomahawk.
During the public hearing about the Town of Mountain City taking over the Dry Run Utility District, I made a statement and I quote, ‘There has been poor management and they are aging out.’
Why would I make such a profound statement? Typically, this would be a true statement. I think my thought and delivery process become mingled. I made a mistake. I am human. I apologize to the world.
Contrary to what I said, the Dry Run Utility District is, according to state officials, well managed. The manager, Mr. Ron Murphy, has done an outstanding job according to all accounts.
I apologize to Mr. Murphy, the Dry Run Utility District Commissioners, the Dry Run Utility District customers, The Tomahawk, the reporter, the County Commission, the County Mayor and any other concerned parties. I did not intend to offend anyone. Please accept my apology. To the extent possible, I retract this statement.”
-Lawrence C. Keeble


Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter at 10-20-16 commissioners’ meeting: “Mr. Ron Murphy after 22 years is, of course, ready to go home. He’s taken pride in the utility district and how good it has done over the years. The water loss is some of the best and in the top of the state.”


Dear Mayor Keeble:
I served as a commissioner of the Dry Run Utility for over five years before retiring. Recently I agreed to serve again until the transition to management by Mountain City Water Department is complete.
I have known Ron Murphy for the seventeen years my wife and I have owned our land and built our home in Mountain Lake Estates. I have known Ron to be a meticulous record keeper and hard working manager of the Dry Run Utility. He works hard ensuring that all the utility customers have water and to keep expenses at a minimum. For twenty-two years he has done an extraordinary job.
Ron Murphy works around the clock when there is any disruption in service or trouble with the pump houses. He worked many years without any compensation using his own vehicle and gas. He deserves respect and thanks for his devoted service.
I’m appalled at the statements you made at the County Commission meeting reported in The Tomahawk. Would you please call or write to me to explain why you believe it was necessary and true to say that the utility has been mismanaged? I hesitate writing to The Tomahawk without first hearing your side.
Ronald Kalous