City candidates participate in forum

Published 9:07 am Friday, October 24, 2014


Candidates for Elizabethton City Council and Elizabethton Board of Education stepped up to the microphone Thursday night to introduce themselves to voters during a candidate forum.
Candidates were chosen at random to speak. Three school board candidates are vying for two seats, and six City Council candidates are seeking four seats.
All nine candidates took part in the forum.
• Board of Education candidate Susan Peters said she was born in Chicago and has lived in Elizabethton for 14 years. She received her undergraduate and post-graduate degrees from the University of Illinois and Illinois Wesleyan and a second post-graduate degree from East Tennessee State University.
Peters has many years of experience in the education field, working as a volunteer at Harold McCormick Elementary for 12 years and now volunteering at Keenburg Elementary.
She said she decided to run for school board because of issues that bothered her when she was a volunteer. She said she witnesses classrooms made for music, art and computer classes being transferred to regular classrooms while those teachers were made to teach from carts. She said teachers were also losing their breakroom spaces.
“We have excellent teachers and they deserve better,” Peters said.
She also questioned if the school system should continue to increase enrollment when the funds gained from the extra students did not cover the cost of facility upgrades to house them. She said she wanted the school board to be more “vigilant” with funding and to choose more local companies for projects.
“I have no political or personal agenda,” Peters said. “Whether I am elected or not, I hope I have brought out issues that need to be addressed. I want to see the best atmosphere for the students and the teachers.”
• Travis Sexton is another Board of Education candidate. He said he was “born and raised” in Elizabethton and had attended city schools. He and his wife own businesses in Elizabethton, attend Oak Street Baptist Church and have enrolled their two children in the ECS.
Sexton said he chose to run for school board because he wanted to see the community continue to grow and providing a quality education was the way to do that. He said he also wanted to make sure his children, and future generations received all of the educational opportunities available to them.
“I believe I can be fair and objective when making decisions,” Sexton said. “I can take my own beliefs out of the equation and vote for what is best for the children and the school system. These children are the future leaders and businessmen of the city. Their education is vital.”
• Tyler Fleming is the final candidate for school board. Fleming is another “lifelong” Elizabethton resident.
He said the schools were in “outstanding” condition but he did have some concerns about the future of T.A. Dugger Junior High School because of the need for additional classrooms and upgrades.
“I support growth in the school system and in the community,” Fleming said. “I would like to see the schools continue on the path they are on. We should be proud of our school system.”
• Wes Frazier was the first candidate for city council to speak.
He said he has been an employee of Snap-on Tools for 28 years and has served with many agencies while “giving back” to the community.
Frazier said he was a candidate because he was concerned about the future of the city. He stated government spending and the unemployment rate were at an all time high. He said leaders needed to be more aggressive while recruiting industries and should support current retail establishments while working to add new ones.
“The working class and the retired cannot continue to carry the burden of tax increases,” Frazier said.
He continued the city needed to continue supporting downtown Elizabethton and work to find ways to increase the revenue base for those businesses.
“This town has a lot to offer,” Frazier said. “I believe in team work. If we all work together the city can continue to grow. If I am elected, I will do everything I can for the betterment of the city.”
• Junior Stanley cited his 40 years of experience running a business in Elizabethton and his previous service as a councilman from 1993 to 1996 as qualifications for his candidacy.
He said when he left council in 1996, the city was on sound financial footing and had a good bond rating. He said one big issue for him was the city’s $100 million debt.
“Too much debt will destroy growth,” Stanley said.
He said if elected he would be against tax increases and would focus on cutting unnecessary spending and waste.
“We need to all work together to serve the people,” he said.
• Erik Kitchens said as a councilman he would work to bring the Christian values from his personal life into play as a city leader. He is a member of Elk River Park Christian Church with his family and is active in the music and youth programs.
“I am a Christian and I believe this country was founded on Christian values,” he said. “I will bring those values with me into my job as councilman.”
Kitchens said he would work to continue the downtown improvements, bring jobs to the city and work to promote the city by developing a brand that would make it more recognizable. He said he would also like to see more unity in the local government.
“This town is too small to play politics,” Kitchens said. “It is time we all come together and work for what is best for the city.”
• Incumbent Richard Tester listed several economic development prospects as improvements that have occurred during his last four years as councilman. Some of the projects he listed included the addition of the Highlands Group, working with NCI to train workers and expand their business, the Medical Care expansion, the plan to add a central business improvement district in downtown Elizabethton, the West Elk Avenue district plan, working to promote the Tweetsie Trail and his involvement in a new “Shop Local” campaign.
“I am always exploring new options,” Tester said. “I want to see this town thrive and grow. I love the town and I love the people here.”
He countered claims the city was on poor economic footing by quoting from a third-party report the city had an A+ economic rating, stable bond prospects and was “very strong” financially.
• Bill Carter is also seeking reelection to City Council. During his first four years, he said council had worked to reinstate bulk brush and trash pickup, make water line improvements, make changes and improvements to downtown Elizabethton, partner with Johnson City to complete the Tweetsie Trail and make improvements to Park and Recreation facilities. He said the relationship between the city and the community had improved as well.
“I would like to see us continue to make progress with the infrastructure and water line repairs,” Carter said. “We need to continue to support the downtown and Carter County Tomorrow to increase job opportunities in the city.”
• Sam Shipley said he was seeking reelection to council because he cared about the city and its citizens.
“As a councilman, I am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Shipley said. “I am here to represent the citizens and address their concerns. I am not here for self-promotion. I am here because I truly enjoy helping people.”
He said he would continue to support the citizens and businesses and would work to encourage new businesses to come to the city. He said water line improvements would be a priority along with streets, sidewalks and completing the city’s walking trails.
Candidates for the Watauga City Commission were also invited to participate. None attended; the candidates were unopposed.

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