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Incumbents, challengers to battle in 3rd District

March 13th, 2014 8:22 pm by Gary B. Gray

Incumbents, challengers to battle in 3rd District

Clockwise, Larry England, Joe Wise, Ted Ganger, Sam Phillips, Mitch Meredith and Alpha Bridger

Six candidates will vie for three Washington County 3rd Commission District spots this year.

The three incumbents, Alpha Bridger, Mitch Meredith and Sam Phillips, are returning for a chance at another term. Challengers Joe Wise, Larry England and Ted Ganger round out the field.

Bridger, Meredith, Wise and England will compete for three spots in the May 6 Republican primary. Phillips and Ganger are running as independents, and their names will be on the Aug. 7 county general election ballot.

The 3rd District includes a large slice of Johnson City, including Towne Acres and the western side of the city. The district also includes a portion of unincorporated area between Johnson City and Jonesborough. It is one of the most populated districts with 15,458 inhabitants.

Bridger was born in Washington County and attended Lamar High School.

She went to work at Standard Forms Co., where she set type and did layout. She later bought the business, which also produced advertising products. She sold that business, as well as Design Forum, an interior design company located within the same building in Johnson City, but she still owns the building.

Bridger is a member of the Mountain States Health Alliance/Washington County Foundation Community Board. She also serves on Washington County’s Archives, County Owned Property and Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural committees. She is a member of First Christian Church in Johnson City and formerly served on the boards of Girls Inc., Crumley House and the Washington County Economic Development Board, as well as being a former member of the Johnson City Area Home Builders Association.

“I’ve always loved politics,” she said. “My parents used to talk politics and it rubbed off on me. My great-grandfather was a Washington County commissioner. The reason I want to run is I’m a people person and find it rewarding to help the people of Washington County.”

She said several projects are under way that she wants to see through, including completion of the county archives.

Bridger is divorced and has two children. She previously served three terms on the County Commission, ending that run in 1994. She decided to run again for a seat in 2010 and is serving out that term.

Meredith, 49, was born in Johnson City and graduated from Science Hill High School. He then received a bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

In 1978, he went to work in Atlanta for Arthur Anderson & Co., an international accounting firm. He moved back to Knoxville in 1984 and worked for Hickman & Co., an auditing firm that conducts municipal and commercial audits. He also opened his own auditing firm in Oak Ridge but moved back to Johnson City to work for Mountain States Health Alliance, managing its medical office portfolio and as its director of real estate.

After 10 years, he left to start a family owned property development company. He still owns the company and performs accounting work.

“I think the county has some challenges in front of it with the schools’ master plan,” he said. “We could double our debt load if we’re not careful. We’re also a little antiquated when it comes to the technological efficiency of county operations.

“The people in government are all wanting to do the right thing, but government is a machine that sometimes can gobble up tax dollars. Collectively, when you put it all together, it’s a machine, and you need people in there that can make good business decisions.”

Meredith is married with three children. He ran unsuccessfully run for a City Commission seat in the early 2000s and is now finishing his first term as a county commissioner.

Phillips, 71, was born and raised in Washington County. He attended Lamar High School and East Tennessee State University.

He served in the Army and was with the Johnson City Police Department for 30 years, retiring as a captain. He also served in law enforcement with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department for the past 12 years and currently is a 911 board of directors member.

“I take my responsibility to my community and fellow citizens seriously,” Phillips said. “I want to see that our children are well educated and well protected. I would like for our Sheriff’s Department to receive more grants to fight against our children being sought by predators on the Internet and against child molesters, so our children can feel safe as they go about their daily lives.

“Our children are our No. 1 asset, therefore we will always need better schools for our children. I will continue to consider all recommendations seriously on how they would like to see our community change for the better. I welcome suggestions, because Washington County belongs to each of us.”

Phillips is married and has one son and three grandchildren. He is finishing his first term as a county commissioner and serves on nine committees.

England, 59, was born in Knoxville. At 14, he moved north of that city and attended Claiborne County High School.

He went to work there with England Furniture, a retail furniture store founded by his grandfather. The family started a manufacturing facility that employed 1,700 employees. It was eventually sold to La-Z-Boy Furniture.

In 1995, England moved to Johnson City, where he worked at Zak’s Fine Furniture for two years. He then started ColorTyme Rentals, a furniture, electronics and appliance rental store. He sold that business in 2005 and opened the first Cartridge World franchise in Johnson City — the first in Tennessee. He has owned and operated that business since 2005.

He is the Mountain State Health Alliance/Washington County Foundation Community Board chairman-elect and also serves on the SunTrust Bank Community Advisory Board.

“During my time in Johnson City I’ve served on a lot of different boards and committees, and I’m in my second term on the Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce board,” he said. “I have been looking to getting further involved in public service. I just want to make a difference.”

England is married and one child and two grandchildren. He ran unsuccessfully for the New Tazewell City Council while in Claiborne County.

Wise, 43, was born in Mentor, Ohio. He came to East Tennessee to attend Milligan College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication. He then took a job with Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Johnson City — a job that required his transfer to Canada, where he was the branch manage for both the Saskatchewan and Manitoba provinces.

He returned to work at Milligan as the college’s assistant to the president and later the director of development. During this time he began taking classes at ETSU and Emmanuel Christian Seminary. While working at Milligan, he and his wife purchased a condominium, and this is where Wise said his interest in property management began.

He started Wise Property Solutions in 2004, and four years later he left Milligan to concentrate solely on the business, which he and his wife operate. The company has offices in Johnson City and Knoxville. Wise is the Johnson City Regional Planning Commission vice chairman and Family Promise of Johnson City secretary and trustee. He is also the past president of the Kiwanis Club of Johnson City and former vice president of Johnson City Jaycees.

“I believe the County Commission can and should be doing better,” he said. There’s an acrimonious spirit that’s developed, and when you’re playing ‘gotcha’ politics, the taxpayers lose. The idea that we’ve all got a little fiefdom to maintain is harmful. I’m also in favor of reducing the size of the commission, and I will not accept county insurance if elected. As a citizen wanting to serve, I think that’s excess.”

Wise is married and has three children. He has never run for public office.

Ganger, 43, was born in Bluffton, Ind., and moved to Jonesborough when he was 2 years old.

He graduated from David Crockett High School in 1989 and graduated from King University in 1993 with a degree in business administration with a minor in economics.

He went to work for Norwest Corp. as a lender and vice president. The company eventually was purchased by Wells Fargo, and Ganger moved to Johnson City to work with Citizens Bank. After 14 years, he took a job with Andrew Johnson Bank as a city executive and senior vice president, where he continues to work today.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me they are disenchanted with the commission,” he said. “I see a lack of civility. They can’t seem to work together, and people are tired of that. One answer would be fewer commissioners.”

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