Tom Horst’s retirement as a Highland County Commissioner brings to a close four decades of honorable, dedicated and effective public service by one of the county’s most recognizable and popular elected officials.
While all public officials have their critics, including Horst, his success at election time reflects the general confidence and appreciation most voters have for him. After serving as a police officer in Lynchburg and Hillsboro, Horst was elected county sheriff in 1988, was reelected twice, and then served in that role for more than a decade, leading an effective law enforcement office and making himself accessible and visible across the county.
He was later elected county commissioner in 2008 and reelected in 2012. When we endorsed him for reelection, we noted that Horst was part of a commission that made tough but fiscally sound budgetary decisions when necessary, such as after the economic downturn and the loss of jobs at regional employer DHL, leading to “reducing a nearly $11 million budget down to almost $8 million to address falling state government funds and dwindling tax receipts…”
We also wrote the following: “Horst also has a personal dedication to preserving and honoring Highland County’s impressive history, leading the effort to restore and maintain an important county jewel, the historic Highland County Courthouse. He also conceived of the idea for a new memorial to honor Highland County veterans, and then spearheaded the county government side of the work needed to make it a reality. Today, the new and continually-expanding Highland County Veterans Memorial stands as an impressive tribute to local residents who have proudly worn our nation’s uniform.”
Tom Horst’s effective leadership has not just been based on his skill as a communicator or his knowledge of the county and its government. He has a personal pride in his home county, and he and his wife, Maggi – who also has an impressive record of public service – often volunteer their time and energy on a personal level to improve our county. The new mural that has begun to take shape on the façade of the county Administration Building is a project of Horst’s that is funded through private donations and will pay tribute to communities across Highland County. His ongoing work with the Highland County Visitors Bureau will provide welcome continuity from one of our county’s best advocates.
We offer our appreciation to Tom Horst for setting an example of what the ideal elected official should be – dedicated, effective, responsive and trustworthy. He may be saying goodbye to his official capacity as a county commissioner, but we know we’ll see Tom and Maggi Horst continuing their personal efforts to make Highland County a great place to live.