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John Thompson

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Update: State Rep. Kent Williams to run for Carter Co. mayor

August 29th, 2013 11:05 am by John Thompson

Update: State Rep. Kent Williams to run for Carter Co. mayor

Kent Williams at his announcement Thursday (John Thompson/Johnson City Press)


ELIZABETHTON — Rep. Kent Williams announced Thursday morning that he will be a candidate for mayor of Carter County in the August 2014 General Election.



Williams has served as representative of the 4th House District for four terms in the General Assembly and was speaker of the House of Representatives for one term.



"Eight years is long enough to make that long drive to Nashville," Williams said of his decision not to seek a fifth term. "I want to stay closer to home, but I also want to stay active...I am still full of energy and want to serve."



Williams said he felt there is a problem in the county government with lack of cooperation.



"All that energy is being wasted in bickering and arguing. I have attended some of their meetings and it gets pretty nasty sometimes from both sides and from some of the citizens...When you have that problem, you lose focus and you are not accomplishing anything."



Williams said he felt he could bring a fresh start to the county government, especially when he expects to see about 12 to 14 new members elected to the County Commission next term.



"With all those new people, it is important to get off to a fresh start." He said his experience as speaker in the House in working with 49 Republicans members and 49 Democrats will help in getting business accomplished despite divided support.



"You have to provide leadership," Williams said. 



Williams said there are other problems in the county, especially the high property tax rate and the need to attract new private sector jobs. He said improving economic development in the county is the most important need.



He said growing the local economy "increases our tax base and remedies the budget situation."



He said one of the biggest problems is the county has not developed any adequate industrial property for many years. He said Alex Borla of Borla Performance Industries in Okolona has been "very instrumental" in the industrial recruitment effort, but more needs to be done.



Williams said tourism and economic development also includes developing the Tax Increment Financing District along the riverfront in west Elizabethton, to include building the proposed Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fish hatchery.



He said it is important for city and county leaders to work together on economic development.



Williams said it was also  important to work together with the other elected county officers. "Mary Gouge (county clerk), Randal Lewis (trustee), Jody Bristol (register) and Ronnie Taylor (assessor) have all won by landslides in their elections...They are easy people to get along with."



On the county's budget and finances, Williams said "we can't keep increasing the property tax." He also said "I don't think we need any new taxes."



Williams said the years he was speaker, the General Assembly was able to pass balanced budgets without raising taxes. He also mentioned his 30 years as an executive and owner in the restaurant business. He said he was always able to stay within his budget.



Williams said he will not run in the local primary elections, choosing to run only in the August general election.



Williams said the state legislature will probably still be in session when the primaries are held next spring. Although he has been banished from the state Republican Party as a result of his siding with 49 Democrats to become speaker in 2010, he said he believed he could still run in the local primary if he didn't have obligations representing the district in the General  Assembly.



He said he had another reason to stay out of the primary. 



"I don't believe in primaries for local elections. That is $40,000 to $50,000 that is a waste of money. Up here, everyone runs in the Republican Primary, whether you are a Republican, Democrat or independent. Its the opposite in Memphis, where everyone runs in the Democrat Primary.



Williams said he has about $20,000 left in his war chest from his past election finances. He said he believes most of those funds are available to him for a local race. He said he also expects to hold more fundraisers as the election time draws near.



Williams said he would not comment on Mayor Leon Humphrey or any of the other possible opponents he may face in the election. 

Below is an earlier version of this story.

ELIZABETHTON — Rep. Kent Williams announced Thursday morning that he will be a candidate for mayor of Carter County in the August 2014 General Election.


Williams has served as representative of the 4th House District for four terms in the General Assembly and was speaker of the House of Representatives for one term.


"Eight years is long enough to make that long drive to Nashville," Williams said of his decision not to seek a fifth term. "I want to stay closer to home, but I also want to stay active ... I am still full of energy and want to serve."


Williams said he felt there is a problem in the county government with lack of cooperation.


"All that energy is being wasted in bickering and arguing. I have attended some of their meetings and it gets pretty nasty sometimes from both sides and from some of the citizens ... When you have that problem, you lose focus and you are not accomplishing anything."


Williams said he felt he could bring a fresh start to the county government, especially when he expects to see about 12 to 14 new members elected to the County Commission next term.


"With all those new people, it is important to get off to a fresh start." He said his experience as speaker in the House in working with 49 Republicans members and 49 Democrats will help in getting business accomplished despite divided support.


"You have to provide leadership," Williams said.

Williams, an Independent, has described himself as a "Carter County Republican" since the state GOP tossed him from its ranks for siding with Democrats to secure the speaker's post.

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