Let us speak of dual seats, judgeships and school board elections

Robert Houk • Jan 28, 2013 at 9:04 AM

To hear some of his supporters talk about it, Washington County Commissioner David Tomita’s efforts to be elected to the City Commission, while continuing to serve on the county board, is a Herculean task that only Tomita can accomplish. You’d think Tomita had a big red S on his chest.

If Tomita is successful in winning a seat on the City Commission in April, however, there might be a big target painted on his back. Tomita certainly has the discipline to serve on both boards, but some wonder if he is prepared for the grief. “He’ll be blamed for every disagreement that comes along,” one courthouse observer told me last week.

True, but Tomita could also take credit for every success that comes along.

On another matter, Washington County commissioners could be called upon to appoint another judge to General Sessions Court. It depends on who Gov. Bill Haslam names to replace Criminal Court Judge Lynn Brown.

Brown is retiring in March and there are eight applicants vying to fill his unexpired term. One of the applicants is Washington County Sessions Court Judge Robert Lincoln. If Lincoln (who is the only applicant with experience on the bench) is tapped by Haslam for the Criminal Court job, there will be a vacancy at the George Jaynes Justice Center.

Earlier this month, commissioners named former state Sen. Don Arnold as Washington County’s third Sessions Court judge. He received all but three votes that were cast for the judgeship. Those votes went to former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden, who would have to be considered the front-runner to replace Lincoln if indeed Lincoln is appointed to Criminal Court.

This is, of course, just speculation. Nobody really knows who Haslam will appoint to the job. The field of contenders is quite impressive, and more than a few of them have some political clout to go along with their legal credentials.

Finally, in last week’s column I noted that I had heard from a few local pundits who thought Jenny Brock’s decision to resign from the Johnson City Board of Education to run for City Commission was something of a head scratcher. I have since heard from Brock, who was eager to set me straight on her reasons for stepping down.

While the City Charter doesn’t expressly require a school board member to resign from that panel while seeking another office, Brock said she felt it was best for her to erase all doubts. Yes, she said, there have been other sitting school board members who have run for the City Commission. And recent history has shown them to be successful in that regard, but Brock said she didn’t want to risk having her continued service to the school board become a distraction in her campaign for the commission.

In addition, by resigning when she did, it allowed election officials to place her seat on the April 23 ballot. That means city voters, not Board of Education members, will select the person who will serve the remaining two years of her term.

So there, you darn pundits, is your explanation.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at rhouk@johnsoncitypress.com.

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