By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report
After the sudden onset of chest pains within the last 48 hours, it has been reported from multiple but unconfirmed sources, that Warren County Commissioner of the Revenue John Smedley is dead. We first got the news that Smedley had passed from a friend citing a source within county government around 9:30 p.m., Friday evening, Aug. 24. We later discovered a second source in county government had e-mailed us of hearing the same news just before 9 p.m.
As reported in the accompanying press release, Warren County acknowledged Smedley’s death at 11:38 p.m., Friday evening.
At the Aug. 24 press conference introducing Norman Shiflett as the next town police chief, both town and county officials told us around 4:30 p.m. that afternoon that Smedley was clinging to life following what they believed to be emergency quadruple heart bypass surgery within the past 36 hours.
Prior to the police chief press conference (see accompanying story), Town Councilman Hollis Tharpe first told us Smedley was on life support following complications believed to have arisen after Smedley initially came out of what appeared to be successful surgery. Then Happy Creek Supervisor Tony Carter arrived and said the news was worse – that Smedley had taken a pronounced turn for the worse and was scheduled to be taken off life support at some point after 7 p.m. that evening.
Carter said it was his understanding Smedley had driven himself to the local hospital after experiencing chest pains and that he had then been transferred and the surgery had taken place at Winchester Medical Center.
Smedley was a self-made man with a GED, who fended off numerous electoral challenges to the county constitutional officer position he has held for two-plus decades. Even after establishing himself in the well-paying revenue commissioner position, Smedley continued to augment his income delivering The Washington Post newspaper in the county before he lost that job to cutbacks in the newspaper industry, which even impacted the mighty Post this past decade.
While considered too brusque or confrontational by critics and his diverse political challengers, we found Smedley, if not always in agreement with our coverage of county tax assessment and revenue issues, to be accommodating and humorous in our interactions with him.
Whatever one’s view of John Smedley, he was without doubt an old-school, small-town success story and a political figure who broke the mold.