Johnson City Press Wednesday, September 17, 2014

News Local News Election 2014

Six hopefuls for District 4 commission seats

March 23rd, 2014 10:11 pm by Gary B. Gray

Six hopefuls for District 4 commission seats

From top left, Republicans Lee Chase and David Tomita - both incumbents - and Jesse Overbey are vying for District 4's three available commission seats, along with independents, from bottom left, Phyllis Corso - incumbent - Katie Baker, and Keith Swink.

This year’s race for Washington County District 4 commissioner includes six candidates qualified to run for three seats.

The district encompasses the southernmost part of Johnson City and an unincorporated portion of the county between the city and the Town of Jonesborough. It is the most populated commission district, with 15,509 inhabitants.

Incumbents Lee Chase and David Tomita face challenger Jesse Overbey in the May 6 Republican primary. The top three vote-getters will move to the Aug. 7 general election where incumbent independent Phyllis Corso, and fellow independents Katie Baker and Keith Swink will join them on the ballot. Three county commissioners will be chosen from this field.

Chase, 63, was born, had his first job, attended college, married and lived in the 4th District all but 18 years while growing up on a farm in the Fairview/Leesburg communities.

He has served two terms as County Commission vice chair; Education Committee chair for four years; City-County Liaison Committee vice moderator, and a member of the Rules and Oversight Committees.

Chase, who has been the Executive Director of the Dawn of Hope for 28 years, also is a member of Central Baptist Church, formally serving as its board chair; Johnson City Kiwanis, formally serving as president; currently Vice Chair of Eastern 8 Community Development Corporation; Johnson City – Washington County Boys and Girls Club secretary; and Johnson City Public Library and Johnson City Development Authority board member.

He said his primary reason for seeking a second term is concern about the relationship between the county and city government.

“The tensions regarding annexation, sales tax collections, and the comparisons of the education system differences concerns me, as we are all citizens of Washington County,” he said. “I believe having been a student of the county schools, a resident of the city, as well as a property owner in the county allows me a particular insight to the issues and concerns of both governments.

“My overall goal for a second term would be to see the school facility plan effected in a way that addresses the critical facility needs of the Boones Creek area, but in a way that is most economically efficient for both county and city residents. Secondly would be to be an advocate for continued redevelopment of downtown Johnson City.”

Chase is married and has two children. He ran unsuccessfully in 2006 for a District 4 County Commission seat and is seeking a second term on the commission.

Tomita, 53, is a 1979 Science Hill High School graduate. He worked for Allstate Insurance and Equifax. He is Vice President/Investment Officer with First Tennessee Brokerage and a former financial adviser with UBS Financial Services. He is a board member of the Washington County/Johnson City EMS, Washington County/Johnson City Animal Control, Hands On! Regional Museum.

Tomita also serves with the Dawn of Hope Foundation as a finance committee member and chairman of its Foundation Endowment Committee, is a board member and classroom volunteer for Junior Achievement of the Tri-Cities, First Tennessee Bank Diversity Council Northeast Tennessee representative, and Science Hill High School Band Boosters presidents. He also serves on the county’s Joint Education Committee

“I want to work to reduce the size of the County Commission, provide financial and budgeting expertise and work to bridge the gap between Johnson City and Washington County government,” he said. “I will make well-informed, sound financial decisions that enhance the quality of life for all residents both County and City and ensure Washington County has a customer friendly attitude towards those who pay taxes and do business here.

“I also want to encourage job growth through aggressive, in-person business recruiting, and I pledge never to take advantage of health insurance benefits offered to county commissioners or serve more than two consecutive terms.”

Tomita is married and has three children. He is running for a second term on the County Commission.

In 2013, he was elected to the Johnson City Commission, becoming the first person ever to simultaneously hold both a City Commission and County Commission seat.

Corso was born in Johnson City. She attended Science Hill High School and graduated from the former Training School. She then received a bachelor of science degree from East Tennessee State University in psychology.

She worked about one year for the State of Tennessee as a juvenile probation officer covering seven counties. Corso married former Johnson City Press political reporter Bill Jennings. Following a divorce, she married former County Commissioner and ETSU professor of political science Joe Corso, who passed away in January 2013.

She was appointed in March 2013 to serve out the remainder of her husband’s term. She became involved with Mr. Corso’s political and public service pursuits in local government and in other venues and credits him with being the inspiration behind her involvement.

“He said, ‘if anything happens to me, please take my place on the County Commission,’” she said. “I thought I wouldn’t like it very much. But when I made that decision, I knew I had to do the very best I could. I found that the meetings were not dry, they are very engaging.

“I think I have become as much a commissioner as anyone else,” she added. “I try to serve the county, and to be transparent. I think I surprised a lot of people who thought I would sit there and serve out his term. With me, what you see is what you get.”

Corso has two children (Jennings) and three step-children (Corso). She has not run for public office, and is finishing her late husband’s term. She is seeking what would be her first full, four-year term on the County Commission.

Swink, 47, was born in Johnson City and graduated from Happy Valley High School in 1985. In 2012, he earned a bachelor’s degree from ETSU in criminal justice with minors in general business and legal studies. He plans to begin a master’s degree program at ETSU in city management.

Swink has been an employee of the Johnson City Power Board for 17 years. Since 1999, he has been employed as an investigator for the JCPB.

“I want to help the county,” he said. “I feel like I can look at issues in an objective way. I have an interest in serving the community. If I am elected, I will want to know why they’re rewarding inmates by letting them out to work on the courthouse and other projects. It seems they’re taking jobs away from local workers.”

Swink is married and has two children. He has never run for public office.

Baker, 28, was born in Greeneville where she was valedictorian at Greeneville High School in 2003.

She received a Niswonger Scholarship to attend Furman University in Greenville, S.C., where she received a bachelor of science degree in health and exercise science. She then attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham, garnering a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in maternal and child health in 2009.

Baker returned to East Tennessee where she completed her doctoral program in public health with a concentration in community health in 2013. She was hired by ETSU as an assistant professor in the university’s College of Public Health.

“As a Niswonger scholar, we are charged with returning to live and work in the community,” she said. “Now that I’m finally finished with school, I feel this is the best way to talk with people about public health. The training I’ve had allows me to address a wide range of issues. For example, I think a seat on the County Commission would allow me to engage and facilitate ways to address public health issues, such as prescription drug abuse. Instead of placing judgement on people, I’d like to open up dialogue in our community.”

Baker is single. She has not run for public office before this year.

Overbey, 33, was born in Bristol, Tenn. He attended Tennessee High School and later received a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree in history from ETSU.

He worked in the construction business with his father for about 10 years. He also started Old Towne Treasures in downtown Johnson City, which closed due to the slow economy. He currently is working to establish a new Johnson City business, Foggy Mountain Leather.

“I want to keep our taxes low and remove red tape for small business owners in the county,” Overbey said. “I also am in favor of reducing the number of commissioners. People can count on me to never, ever vote for a tax increase. I want to be a voice for the people.”

Overbey is single. He ran unsuccessfully in 2010 in an attempt to unseat State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-7th.

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