Candidates tackle a variety of questions in mayoral forum

Published 2:17 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Candidates seeking the office of Carter County Mayor fielded a variety of questions ranging from economic development to homelessness during a special forum hosted by the Carter County Republican Women on Tuesday evening.

Of the four candidates appearing on the Republican Primary Ballot, three took part in the candidate forum — Rusty Barnett, Leon Humphrey, and Danny Ward. Candidate Larry Shell did not attend the event on Tuesday.

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To start Tuesday evening, a meet and greet session was held at the Bonnie Kate Theater to allow all of the candidates to meet with voters. After the meet and greet session, attendees took their seats in the theater for the mayoral candidate forum, which was moderated by WJHL news anchor Josh Smith.

The candidates were interviewed one-on-one on the stage by Smith. The order of interview was randomly selected by drawing names out of a hat prior to the start of the forum.

Prior to answering questions, the candidates were allowed to make an opening introduction to the audience with a maximum time limit of three minutes.

Below are some of the answers to questions by the candidates. To watch a video of the candidate forum in its entirety, visit the Elizabethton Star’s website at by clicking here or the Elizabethton Star’s Facebook page at Star.

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Question:  What is the most urgent issue facing Carter County and if elected what would you do about it?

Barnett: “Jobs. I know everybody says jobs, but we have to get jobs. I’ve been doing some research, and we have about four or five good parcels of land that we can do small factories or something.”

Barnett said if elected, he will work with other local officials to draw businesses into the area.

Humphrey: “The most important issue at this time is we have a declining population. If you look at the 2016 census data and compare that to the 2010 actuals, we’re down about 1,000 people. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. If your population continues to decline, for the people that are remaining it’s just not going to be good for them from a tax perspective if nothing else.”

If re-elected, Humphrey said he would continue the work of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development he founded in 2016 to recruit and attract businesses to the area.

Ward: “I feel like drugs in our community is probably the most significant problem we have because it affects all walks of life. It affects our schools. It affects people getting jobs. I deal with that every day.”

If elected, Ward said he hopes to work with area law enforcement and other agencies to help combat the drug issue in Carter County.

Question: Some areas of Carter County do not have access to broadband internet. Do you consider this a significant issue and what would you do to help expand internet access?

Barnett: “That’s a tough question to answer because the further you go out in the county the harder it is. You have to have towers. You don’t have any communication without the towers… It’s a priority yes, but it’s going to cost some money.”

Humphrey: “Connectivity. Broadband. High-speed connectivity is as important today as the interstate highways systems were during the Eisenhower administration. It’s absolutely necessary to have high-speed connectivity throughout the county. Without that, you are actually restricting the number of people you are wanting to move to Carter County.”

Ward: “I think we need to probably get that with our utilities and try to work with them and make that happen. Today, people can move into the area and work from home if they have broadband. I’m all for expanding our broadband.”