Citing his intent to serve just two terms, Eldridge told county commissioners during their monthly meeting what many had already deduced, his time as mayor would end in 2018.
With a little more than 180 days until the May 1 primaries, no candidate has publicly announced their intent to seek the office — but there have been plenty of whispers and rumors.
The most speculated prospect to fill Eldridge’s role is two-term Commissioner Joe Grandy, who currently chairs the influential Budget Committee, has served as vice chairman of the Washington County Economic Development Council and is president of Ferguson Enterprises Inc.
Grandy has quietly admitted his interest in running for mayor, but has not publicly committed to the endeavor, although rumors are flying that he will officially announce his campaign later in November.
Another candidate who confirmed he would possibly seek the office of mayor is military veteran Dr. John Daniel, who made headlines in May when he filed a lawsuit against the County Commission over its redistricting.
Although his effort proved futile in Chancery Court and was eventually dismissed, Daniel has long been a critic of the current administration and is hoping to bring change, whether he decides to run for county commission or mayor.
Another possible mayoral contender is Mark Ferguson, who has also been the center of rumors foretelling his possible entry into the mayor’s race.
Neither Ferguson nor Grandy returned calls from the Johnson City Press requesting comment on their political futures.
Ferguson previously represented Washington County’s 6th Commission District but was defeated by Tom Foster in the 2014 primary.
Not a single Democrat’s name has yet to be floated for mayor, but Johnson Citian John Baker did confirm he plans to run for County Commission in 2018. Baker lost handily to Rep. Micah Van Huss during November’s general election for Tennessee’s 6th House District seat.
Former Johnson City mayor and current U.S. Rep. Phil Roe has yet to divulge whether he will seek another term representing Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District.
According to spokeswoman Tiffany Haverly, “The congressman is 10 months into a two-year term and is focused on serving East Tennesseans. He typically decides whether he will seek reelection closer to the actual election and will make an announcement accordingly.”
As far as Eldridge’s future, the mayor asserted that he has no immediate political callings for state office or Congress.
What he is looking forward to following his time as mayor is spending some additional time at home, although he didn’t rule out a possible reentry into the telecommunications industry.
“As my wife says, ‘You get your life back,’” Eldridge said. “I’m actually looking at two or three opportunities. I don’t have anything specific that on Sept. 1 I’m going to move into. We’ve got a lot of things going on with our farm. My wife, over the last few years, has really turned our farm into a venue business. So I’m going to start taking a role in that with her.
More than anything, Eldridge admitted he’s most looking forward to spending some time with his 3-month-old grandchild and his three children.
Whoever his successor is, Eldridge emphasized a need for Washington County to continue investing in regional partnerships and resolve what he considers to be a funding disparity between county and city schools.
Nov. 17 is the first day candidates can begin picking up nominating petitions for the May primary.
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