Brock, Tomita easily win Johnson City Commission seats

Gary B. Gray • Apr 23, 2013 at 10:15 PM

Jenny Brock and David Tomita on Tuesday bested a field of seven candidates and will position themselves in chambers next month as the two newest members of the Johnson City Commission.

The two were never seriously challenged and ran neck-and-neck from the time the first precinct reported until the last. Brock, a former Board of Education member, garnered the most votes with 2,417, or 29.3 percent. Tomita, a Washington County Commissioner, was close behind with 2,364, or 28.6 percent.

Finishing third but not making the cut for the two open spots was Vance Cheek Jr., former city commissioner and mayor, with 1,305 votes, or 15.8 percent; Frank Bolus, former Washington County Commissioner, next at 966, or 11.7 percent; incumbent Commissioner Jane Myron with 760, or 9.2 percent; William “Bud” Hill, who ran unsuccessfully for a City Commission seat in 2011 with 269, or 3.3 percent; and Bart Mikitowicz, a project coordinator for Johnson City’s Glass & Concrete Contracting who received 162 votes, or about 2 percent.

Brock also edged Tomita in early and absentee votes 1,069 (29.6 percent) to 953 (26.4 percent).

Brock, 63, decided to run for a City Commission seat while serving her second term as a member of the Johnson City Board of Education. She has consistently said during her campaign that she wants to be a commissioner who is a progressive thinker, optimistic and not afraid to deal with the tough issues.

Brock based her campaign on four points of focus: maintaining as low a tax rate as possible while keeping city services at a high level; building a strong, viable infrastructure and keeping utilities affordable; supporting all levels of education and leveraging programs at East Tennessee State University to benefit the economy; and improving quality of life.

“I’m incredibly humbled that Johnson City citizens have given me their vote of confidence, and I don’t take that lightly,” she said Tuesday night. “I want to represent the citizens with honor and respect. I think David will be a great asset to the City Commission, and I think he and I will be able to work well together.

“With the Board of Education, we were constantly being challenged with change. I’m one of those people that if there’s going to be change, I want to lead that change and not have it thrown on you.”

Brock is married to husband Michael. They have a daughter, two grandchildren and another on the way. She graduated from Science Hill High School in 1967, and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree at the University of Tennessee in physical education and a master’s degree from ETSU in exercise physiology.

She taught physical education in ETSU’s exercise science division for nine years and was pursuing her doctorate when Texas Instruments offered her a job in Dallas in 1989 to start that company’s first wellness program. She was then recruited by Toronto-based Nortel Networks to start that company’s wellness program. In 1996, she moved back to Dallas and moved into Nortel’s human resources division until retiring in 2001.

Brock serves on the Johnson City Power Board and has been chairwoman the past two years. She also is on the Golf Advisory Board and started a tradition: the Johnson City Turkey Trot. She and Myron also started Up & At ‘Em, a program that addresses health issues for area youth. She also was an instructor and is now a coach for the worldwide instructional program The First Tee.

Tomita, 51, will continue to serve on the 25-member County Commission, becoming the first person to hold a seat on both the city and county legislative bodies. He has cited an immediate need for better communication between the two bodies and the failure of the City/County Liaison Committee to show any marked progress over the past few years.

“I’m honored — I’m very honored,” he said from his home. “I work with people every day. I work with their retirements and 401ks. We take information and funnel it down to action. That’s very much like what needs to happen on either body.

Tomita said he has no qualms about serving on both the city and county commissions.

“I weighed this out very carefully,” he said. “I looked high and low for conflicts, and it just wasn’t there.”

In January, Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin cited Tomita as “an exceptionally capable individual” and that if there is anyone who can successfully attend to the duties of both a city commissioner and a county commissioner, he would be that type of individual.

Tomita, a 1979 graduate of Science Hill High School, is First Tennessee’s Brokerage’s vice president/investment officer. He is married to wife Jenny and has three children; Anna, 17; Erin, 14; and Isabel, 12.

Tomita is president of the SHHS Band Boosters; Dawn of Hope Foundation Board of Trustees member; Johnson City Junior Achievement board member; Hands On! Regional Museum board of directors member; Johnson City Development Authority board member; and former president of Second Harvest Food Bank. He also is on the Chamber Youth Leadership Program Steering Committee and is a member of First Tennessee Bank’s Diversity Council.

The unofficial total vote count for Tuesday’s municipal election, including absentee votes, was 4,455, or 11.4 percent of the city’s 38,237 registered voters, according to Maybell Stewart, Washington County administrator of elections. The split was 1,950 early and absentee votes and 2,505 election day votes.

The 11.4-percent turnout is down slightly from the 2011 municipal election in which 4,510 votes were cast, a roughly 12-percent turnout. The 2009 contest included a pool of 37,431 registered voters; 3,335 turned out, or just under 9 percent.

Most candidates, and many voters, have openly acknowledged they expected another low turnout this year and that who gets in and who’s left out could be decided by a few votes. There also was no single compelling issue this time around for which sides can be taken, meaning candidates would have to work that much harder hard to flesh out support.

“A small minority in this case can control the community,” said Ron Helsabeck Tuesday as he and others lounged in front of Towne Acres Elementary School. “Low turnouts concern me greatly as a citizen. What happens so often is the loud minority end up running things.”

Johnson City residents can’t afford not to get out and make a difference, Anne Godfrey said while parked in her lounge chair chatting passers-by.

“I just don’t think there’s any pressing issues out there,” said Jim Godfrey. “When that happens, voters may perceive there’s no reason for them to get out and vote. These are tomorrow’s leaders and decision makers.”

Johnson City resident Terry Warner cast his vote Tuesday at the Henry Johnson Alternative Learning Center and later had this to say about the low turnouts during the past few elections: “It’s a big deal. There’s a bunch of flag wavers, but when it comes time to vote, they don’t come out.”

The victors will replace Myron, who served two terms as a commissioner and current Vice Mayor Phil Carriger, who chose not to run for a second term.

Myron was elected to her first term in 2005 and became mayor after Phil Roe resigned to take his seat in the U.S. House as Tennessee’s 1st District representative. Prior to becoming mayor, Myron was vice mayor from 2007–09.

She served as a commissioner during a time when major infrastructure investments were being made to control flooding downtown as well as a period where revived and a renewed interest in the downtown area was spawned.

Originally from Nashville, she has lived in Johnson City since 1970. She co-founded the city’s Turkey Trot, and formerly owned and operated Black Tie Formal Wear and Jane’s Lunch Box.

Carriger was elected in 2009. But what many people may not know is how thin he’s been spreading himself. He also serves on various nonprofit boards and is the Johnson City-Washington County Economic Development Board’s secretary and treasurer.

He will step down on June 30 as a member of the Johnson City Power Board’s Board of Directors after wrapping up his second four-year term, said he plans to continue his work at Bank of Tennessee, but he also is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and two grandsons.

The City Commission is composed of five elected at-large members. Commissioners are elected to four-year overlapping terms on a non-partisan basis. Elections are held every two years, which creates a rotation of two commissioners one election cycle and three the next election cycle.

Commissioners make $100 per month; the mayor makes $150 per month.

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