Forum introduces candidates for Carter County

Published 11:50 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
Twelve of 18 candidates for Carter County offices took part in a public forum on Tuesday.
“Every single candidate who had registered with our election committee was sent a letter and emails along with all the announcements, so if you don’t see a candidate here you may have hoped to speak to, then they declined or decided not to come so you can reach out to them with your questions,” said Joy McCray, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce as she laid the ground rules for the forum.
The Chamber hosted the forum, with retired Washington County Sessions Court Judge John Kiener as moderator.
Randall Jenkins, the only clerk candidate who chose to answer questions, was the first to speak, answering a question about his interpretation of the responsibility of the role.
“The clerk is the clerk to the commission so any minutes, agendas anything to that nature, that is their task,” said Jenkins. “The big thing is the car tags, business licenses, marriage licenses, and could be hunting licenses and I don’t think they do that right now. I would like to offer more online services and make minutes and agendas available for you all because the commission does a lot of important business for you. Also, I have been hearing a lot about the speed of service while knocking on doors and I can’t speak on it until I get in there and take a look at the operations.”
Incumbent Clerk Mary Gouge, the only other candidate in the race, was in the audience but did not participate in the forum.
Five Republican Trustee candidates participated with Republican Jeff Guinn not participating. They were asked how they would change the office and what avenues would they use to invest the county’s surplus money to help increase money for the county.
Larry Adams said that he was the best candidate for the office of Trustee because “I realize that the office of Trustee belongs to the citizens of Carter County — it doesn’t belong to just one individual.
“I have an extensive background in management and an extensive background in customer service. I don’t think that any of the candidates have extensive knowledge of how the office works. It would be new to all of us. We have to realize that office has been ran well for a number of years and we want to continue and build upon that and when we leave, leave it a better place than when we come.”
Aaron Greer said he had been a lifelong Carter County resident serving as “a church trustee and helped in schools and has always lent a helping hand.
“I have also spent the last eight to nine years doing government software. During that time, I have worked in all 95 county trustee offices across the state of Tennessee and have also worked with the Register of Deeds office, the County Clerk’s office, and the Courts as well which I feel gives me an advantage of what works and doesn’t work across the state and hopefully, we can bring that into Carter County to flourish as well. I was also over 250 accounts and along with that I oversaw $225 million that I had to manage in the process.”
Travis Hill said that serving as a county commissioner in the 6th District has rounded his views of the needs of the county.
“The staff will stay the same because we have a great staff and will continue to offer those services and streamline the best we can. Some of the things I would like to do is offer curbside services to our senior citizens and disabled to speed that process up. One of the key duties of this job is investing the idle funds because if you are on the county commission you know every dollar matters. The interest revenue that comes off the idle funds is not all that good right now but you can invest them in CDs, high yield checking accounts, Treasury Bonds, Municipal Bonds which are more long-time investments.”
Chad Lewis said he was the best candidate because “he had been raised in a well-groomed home by two wonderful parents that taught me the values of life.”
“I have also been well educated as I went to King University and went from there to Walters State and received my degree. I do think that this office has been run flawlessly for the last 27-1/2 years where we have never had an audit finding. My goal would be to never have an audit finding in that office. I would like to implement some things into the trustee’s office with the help of the commission. One of those would be to not only help those people on tax relief but to help everyone.”
Andrew Wetzel said his qualifications as a “proven leader and dedicated public servant” made him the ideal candidate for Trustee.”
“I spent 27-1/2 years on active duty and reserve in the Marine Corps. I had two combat deployments to Iraq in the Reserve and the leadership there was paramount. I learned a lot about how you lead people, how you treat people, and how to manage people. I am a teamwork guy and that is all I know. If I am fortunate enough to be elected to this office, that office will work as a team.”
Four of the five mayor candidates participated in the forum: Republicans incumbent Patty Woodby, Danny Ward, and Mike Ensor along with independent Devon Buck. Independent candidate Leon Humphrey Jr. did not participate.
Buck said, “Carter County needs professionals and not politicians.”
“I have been in the trenches and worked the everyday grind. In my career, I have been the player and the coach, the student and the teacher, and I have been the employee and the boss. I have seen both sides. I am not up with the day-to-day dealings but working better with the commissioners and as all offices being talked about tonight, we are servants of Carter County. We want to continue on the programs that Mayor Patty Woodby has established and add new ones which will affect Carter County citizens and their needs.”
Ensor said he is most qualified not because of his three educational degrees but because “I am good at problem-solving because of what I have done in my educational career.”
“I have dealt with youth, disgruntled parents, and other avenues dealing with education. As far as changes I would like to see made is I would like to implement an office for grant writing which I think would be huge because there is far too much money out there in the private sector that we can utilize for our county. That is way too big a job to put on someone else’s plate. It won’t happen overnight.”
Ward said, “We need a businessman to run the county.”
“The county is a business. I have been on a lot of different boards and done a lot of things in the community. I created a non-profit called Go Betsy and we have been doing a lot of things with that. I have been in management since I was 19 years old. I feel like my leadership and background qualify me to be the mayor.”
Woodby said her background working for the county as an employee, serving on the commission as a commissioner and as a chairwoman for the commission, and then serving as the mayor for the last 1-1/2 years has made her the most qualified for the position.
“Something that I am very passionate about is education. Currently, we are leading the region in vocational technology and developing leadership and partnership in those roles. The biggest asset is our children and I want to get our kids on a quality skill path so they can have a skilled education. We are developing partnerships with our local leaders, our regional leaders, and state officials to even some of our industries to have a skilled pathway for our children. I want to see our kids graduate on a Friday and go to work on a Monday.”
Three of five sheriff’s candidates participated, including Republican candidates Mike Fraley and Thomas Smith along with Independent Rocky Croy. Incumbent Dexter Lunceford and candidate Kimmie Birchfield did not participate.
Croy, who is seeking the sheriff’s office, told the voters that when he started in 1983 “there were four employees on the road and here we are in 2022 and there are still four employees on the road.”
“I would bust up the warrant service and put two more to each shift making a total of six. More people on patrol the less your crime rate is going to be. Half of the job of sheriff is having people on patrol is actually having people on patrol. We will pick back up the litter program and have some of the low-risk inmates going out to pick up trash. There wouldn’t be any of my relatives working there because none of them want the job to be honest with you. We need to do better by adding benefits to help show the employees you care about them and build morale.”
Fraley said he has worked every position at the Carter County Sheriff’s Office before he retired and knows “the in’s and out’s of the department.”
“I have worked under five sheriffs and some of them had great ideas and some of them didn’t. I would like to build a department to make it better and that’s why I am in this race. In 1989 when I started there were four road officers per shift and that was with 43 employees. In 2022, there are 143 positions at the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and there are still four road officers per shift. One of the changes I would like to make is to streamline those positions and get more officers out in the community talking to the people to change the mindset and change the mindset of that’s not my job to how can I help.”
Smith said he would start the changes when he was elected sheriff by “hopefully putting the current sheriff out.”
“Then I would reorganize and restructure the department. I feel there are positions that are being filled that can be utilized in other locations in that department. You would have to hold on to the personnel because they are civil-service protected. The constables would have their communication system back so they can get out here and work in the communities and do the job they were elected to do. I have already had several officers that are certified that have come to me and are willing to join me in my administration.”

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