Bert Chalfant, Williamson County’s longest-serving commissioner, dies

Longtime County Commissioner Bert Chalfant died Aug. 24, leaving behind a long legacy of public service.

Chalfant was first elected to the county commission in 1986 and served a total of 32 years, including its explosive population growth. The 86-year-old had just won re-election in the county’s general election earlier this month and was beginning his ninth term as county commissioner, representing District 7 of Brentwood.

Chalfant was the county’s most senior commissioner.

Days after his death, Betty Jane Brindley Chalfant, his wife of 40 years, reflected on her husband’s unwavering drive.

“He took things in a very disciplined way and he always planned ahead, so I try to be very organized, disciplined and very respectful,” she told The Tennessean on Monday as she finalized plans for her husband’s funeral, scheduled for the following day.

Left to right, Williamson County Commissioner Bert Chalfant sits with his wife, Betty Jane Brindley Chalfant, during the dedication ceremony for the Public Safety Reflecting Garden at Brentwood City Hall in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Chalfant and his wife, both Nashville natives, encountered the First Presbyterian Church when the church split in two; they both started working in his Sunday school.

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They married in 1982.

And in recent years, she could be seen helping him as he went to every county commission meeting. She sat at every meeting and watched him comment and vote.

“He was so dedicated to the county and dedicated to the hospital,” Betty Jane Brindley Chalfant said. “He was the longest-serving commissioner and he was the most capable.

“So why would he stay home? I wanted him to stay awake as long as possible…When you love someone so much, you do everything you can to help each other.”

In previous elections and terms, Bert Chalfant has shared his passion for the local public school system, as well as Williamson Medical Center and its work as a nonprofit hospital.

He served on the hospital’s board of directors for 25 years.

Woman: “He loved the army”

Bert Chalfant’s decades-long commitment to local government and health came after banking and military careers.

He retired from a 25-year banking career in the Middle Tennessee area as president of First Tennessee Bank of Rutherford County – only after serving 33 years in the U.S. Army and Reserves. U.S. Army from which he retired as a full colonel.

While in the Army Reserve, he taught several courses at the U.S. Army Reserve Force School in Nashville. After being released, Chalfant was recalled and served in Operation Desert Storm.

Bert Chalfant helped establish an accident notification division, his wife said, and he personally delivered a notice to next of kin honoring fallen service members.

Bert Chalfant

“He loved the Army. If he could have been in the Army today, he would have been,” Betty Jane Brindley Chalfant said. “A lot was his love… And he cared a lot about God, his home and his country.

“It was his commitment.”

Chalfant was diagnosed with lung cancer in March.

After moving into Williamson Medical Center in recent weeks, Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson arrived at the hospital sitting in his hospital bed days before he died.

“So he’s committed to serving,” Anderson said. “And he did an amazing job when he was healthy…He was stellar,” Anderson said. “The (district) lines have changed over the years, but he was continuously re-elected.

“He always kept his district front and center, but when it came to bigger issues, he helped make it the community we have today and he will be sorely missed.”

Before Anderson was mayor, he and Bert Chalfant were new county commissioners who started around the same time.

While Bert Chalfant served his eighth term as County Commissioner, fellow District 7 Commissioner Tom Tunnicliffe served his first.

“He always led by example and was always a gentleman,” Tunnicliffe said. “He had a story that I didn’t have and it was very helpful on some issues that came up.”

And even as two Brentwood leaders who were at odds at times, Bert Chalfant ensured that the difference of opinion did not change their relationship as friends and colleagues.

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Fill Bert Chalfant’s shoes

Coinciding with this year’s general election, Williamson County will hold a special election for Bert Chalfant’s District 7 seat to the county commission on Nov. 8.

The deadline for qualifying applicants is September 14.

“I just hope there’s someone dedicated to the best interests of Brentwood,” Betty Jane Brindley Chalfant said.

The deadline to register to vote in the next election is October 10 at 4:30 p.m. Residents of Williamson County can register online at www.williamsonvotes.net or in person at the Tennessee Department of Safety Driver Testing Centers, Department of Human Services, or Williamson County Health Department.

Voter registration forms can also be obtained at any Williamson County library or at williamsoncountyvotes.net.

Anika Exum is a reporter for The Tennessean, part of the USA Today Network — Tennessee. Contact her at [email protected], 615-347-7313, or on Twitter @aniexum.

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