Chewing the fat: Politicians look to 2014 election at ‘Pigs and Politics’
By Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
The Pigs and Politics Legislative Day Thursday meant barbecue, beer and a little chewing the fat about the upcoming county elections in 2014.
The Blount Partnership held the second annual event at the Alumni Gym on the Maryville College campus. Politicians and constituents schmoozed in a casual, no-speech atmosphere, and a little money was raised for nonprofit organizations through elected officials serving barbecue for tips or participating in a dunking booth and pie tossing.
Next year will be a busy year for county politicians. All county offices except for property assessor are up for election in 2014. District 2 County Commissioner Brad Harrison has decided to challenge incumbent Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap for his office. “I want to give the people a choice,” Harrison said. “They haven’t had a choice in a long time.”
Harrison has worked as a road builder, a licensed contractor, a developer and as a three-year employee of the Highway Department before being laid off.
Why should voters choose him? “The main thing is I can live within a budget,” he said. “You won’t see me in the newspaper asking for a wheel tax or any kind of tax. I have been a road builder and a developer in Blount County for years, so I have a lot of construction experience.”
Dunlap has served as highway superintendent since 1994. Reached by phone for a response, he said his tenure has been productive.
“If you look back, we have done an excellent job,” he said. “We have addressed a lot of issues and corrected a lot of problems and done with it with a very limited budget. We cut staff when times got hard to add more to our maintenance budget. Just overall, look back and see what all we’ve been able do over the last almost 20 years. Experience is the key to all of it. I carry 40 years of road maintenance and road construction experience.”
Harrison alleged his employment with the Highway Department ended because of his stance on taxes. “(Dunlap) said ‘Son, I need you to work on a 3-cent tax increase for the next three years,” he said. “I said ‘Bill, I can’t do that. ... He laid me off.”
“That’s a lie,” Dunlap said. “The year I laid him off, if you were to look at the revenues and compare them to the year before, every month we were down roughly $60,000 from the year before. The money wasn’t there. It was a business budget decision when I laid him off. I don’t like it. Never have. That year I had to lay off two.”
Register of Deeds Phyllis Crisp said she’ll be running for a second term next year. She plans a kick-off celebration at the Blount County Public Library on Sept. 19 from 4 to 6 p.m.
“I’d like for everyone to come out and join us in this event and just get to know me and my staff if they’ve not met me and just give me feedback on how they think I have served them the past year,” she said.
Crisp didn’t have any rumors to share concerning new faces or challengers in the upcoming election. “As far as I know, all the incumbents are running, but I’ve heard no rumbles at this time,” she said.
Assuming the Blount County Democratic and Republican Parties call for a May primary, candidates will be able to take out qualifying petitions beginning Nov. 22. The deadline to qualify would be Feb. 20, 2014.
County Commissioner Kenneth Melton, District 10, said he would be running for re-election but that he does not have a good idea of what the coming year will look like. “I couldn’t read it right now. It’s too early.”
District 10 County Commissioner Mark Hasty has not made a firm decision on running again. “I’m keeping it open,” he said, adding, with a laugh, “If someone runs against me that I know I can’t beat, no. If they dropped Ronald Reagan against me, I believe I’d sit down and quit.”
Afterward, Hasty said he would probably run for re-election.
First-time County Commissioner Rick Carver, District 5, plans to run for another term, he said, and has not heard of anyone planning to run against him. “Hopefully, (the commission has) done fairly well in listening to what the citizens want to happen,” he said.