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Joe Grandy for Washington County mayor

Johnson City Press • Apr 29, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Anyone who’s been paying attention to the race to replace Dan Eldridge as Washington County’s mayor knows that ugly is a mild adjective to describe the campaign.

Given how acrimonious politics have become at the national and state levels, nasty local races were sure to follow. Washington County voters are left chewing on petty distractions while sorting out any real character concerns between the muddied targets and the mudslingers themselves. What happened to campaigning on your own merits and positions? Can anyone find substance in the noise?

Through it all, though, one candidate managed to impress us by clearly outlining his agenda, even though he, too, wallowed in the mud along the way. He actually answered the questions to our recent candidate survey with thorough explanations rather than dismissing them.

Joe Grandy’s vision for Washington County is what makes him our choice to be the county’s next mayor. With his experience as a business leader, community volunteer, Economic Development Council member and two-term county commissioner, Grandy would bring a wealth of financial and governmental knowledge to the mayor’s office.

Grandy displays keen understanding of the major financial, educational, infrastructural and political needs of the county. He rightly has focused on reducing Washington County’s high debt. He knows that Washington County must move fully into the 21st century by expanding clean water access to all residents and understands the need to seek federal and state assistance to do it. He knows that improving Washington County’s workforce is the path to prosperity.

Without a doubt, Grandy has made some major missteps in his campaign. He should have known better than to use the Washington County Courthouse entrance that sits within the 100-foot boundary of an early voting location. Even if the single conversation an opposition PAC captured in a photograph was the innocent encounter Grandy says it was, the mere appearance of impropriety handed his detractors ready ammunition.

His biggest mistake, though, was in accepting a campaign contribution from a health care company that jointly operates a substance abuse clinic in Chattanooga. Grandy sits on the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency Board and voted along with other members in February to allow Acadia Healthcare to take a vast majority ownership. Less than two months later, Acadia handed his campaign $1,000.

Grandy was wrong to accept the donation. Regardless of whether the contribution was as legal as Grandy claims, his acceptance casts doubt on his ability to separate his official duties from the influence of lobbyists. We encourage Grandy to clearly distance himself from special interests in the future.

We also encourage Grandy to separate himself from the current administration’s bunkered style of politics. Whoever the next mayor is must work cordially with commissioners, other elected officials, Johnson City and Jonesborough leaders and particularly with the school boards in Washington County and Johnson City. Insulting rhetoric is no way to negotiate toward conclusions.

Grandy has not been a perfect candidate, but he clearly is the most qualified in the field both in Tuesday’s primary and the general election in August. We recommend a vote for Joe Grandy to be Washington County’s next mayor.

Editor’s note: This editorial has been corrected to state that Grandy has experience as a business leader.

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