Former Johnson City Mayor Warren Vest has died at age 92. Robert Houk has penned a tribute to “a true political maverick.” Excerpt:
He certainly couldn’t be confused with a suit and tie politician. Vest preferred wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots. And when it came to his hair, Vest rarely let a barber’s scissors touch his silver mane.
More importantly, Vest didn’t need a TV camera aimed at him every other Thursday night to stand up for those he called “the poor folks” of Johnson City.
…As mayor, Vest happily rode a circus elephant into Freedom Hall. He also was known to abruptly leave City Commission meetings when he felt they had dragged on too long.
At one meeting, after his critics chastised him for his hasty departures, Vest had a city staffer tie him into his chair. It just so happened a writer for a newly launched statewide magazine (remember Chris Whittle’s now defunct Tennessee Illustrated?) was in the audience that night.
Vest’s 12-year stint on the City Commission came to an end in 1989. There have been others since Vest who have billed themselves as watchdogs of the city budget and champions of the common people, but none of them could match Vest’s tenacity.