Rusty Barnett announces candidacy for County Mayor

Published 10:09 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

Like the words of a famous rock tune, Rusty Barnett felt it was time to turn a page to a new chapter of his life, so he has decided to run for Carter County Mayor in the upcoming Republican Primary.

Barnett has spent the last 40 years of his life in the realm of public service — working as both a police officer and a firefighter. He began his career at the age of 22 at the Carter County Sheriff’s Office under then-Sheriff George Papantoniou. He later made a move to the Johnson City Department of Public Safety which included both the city’s police and fire departments. Officers rotated service terms between the police department and fire department. It was during his tenure in Johnson City that Barnett developed his love of firefighting.

His hometown was calling him, so Barnett returned to Elizabethton, working first at the Elizabethton Police Department and then transferring to the Elizabethton Fire Department, where he has been since the early 80s. He served as a Captain with the department for over two decades, and was named Deputy Chief in 2015.

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“Like the old Bob Seger song says, turn the page,” Barnett said. “After 40 years, I want to turn the page and do a little something different.”

In 2012, Barnett decided to try his hand at serving his community in a different way and was elected to serve on the Carter County Board of Education. He is now in his third year serving as Chairman of that body.

Barnett has also been heavily involved with the Carter County Republican Party and is currently serving as Chairman of that group as well.

“I enjoy the politics part, and I want to take that to a higher level,” Barnett said.

Over the years, Barnett said he had considered running for office after he retires from the Elizabethton Fire Department, but recently he began to consider the matter more seriously.

“About a year ago, people were starting to approach me and asked if I would consider running for Mayor,” Barnett said.

Barnett said he had never considered seeking the Mayor’s post before, but as more and more people began asking him to run for that office, he began to give the idea some serious thought.

“The last three or four months has really been when I’ve considered it,” Barnett said.

He has spoken with family, friends, mentors, and members of the community while weighing the decision.

“I feel like I have the support,” Barnett said.

Through his work with both the Board of Education and as Deputy Chief of the Fire Department, Barnett said he has experience working with budgets. Both those positions, as well as his role with the Carter County Republican Party, have also provided him with leadership experience, he said.

However, he said, a leader is only as good as the people around him, he said.

“You have to surround yourself with good people,” Barnett said. “My Dad always told me growing up if I was ever in charge of anything to surround myself with good people and let them do their job and that would make my job easier.”

One of the most important things Barnett hopes to accomplish if elected would be to build better working relationships — not only between Carter County and the City of Elizabethton, but also with the County Commission and County departments as well.

“Working together is the number one priority,” Barnett said.

Barnett also pledges to be “honest and up front” if elected and to continue to serve the community.

“I hope the people of Carter County will want the same values that I do,” he said.

Barnett is looking forward to running for the office and meeting people in the community.

“I’m going to run a positive campaign,” he said. “I won’t do any mud slinging, and I hope they won’t do any either.”