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Five aiming for District 5 Washington County Commission seats

March 26th, 2014 8:56 pm by Gary B. Gray

Five aiming for District 5 Washington County Commission seats

Clockwise: Nancy Fischman, Gary McCallister, Jimmy Zukas, Robbie Tester and Ron England

Five candidates are vying for two District 5 Washington County Commission seats this year.

The field is wide open, with incumbents Ken Lyon and Ethan Flynn bowing out in February.

Republican candidates Ron England, Gary McAllister, Robbie Tester and Jimmy Zukas will compete in the May 6 Republican Primary. The top two will face the lone independent in the field, Nancy Fischman. in the Aug. 7 county general election, and only the top two vote-getters will win seats on the County Commission.

District 5 contains 10,294 inhabitants. It is comprised mainly of the southern portion of Johnson City, as well as some unincorporated land between the city and the Town of Jonesborough.

Fischman was born in New York City, grew up in New Jersey and received her bachelor’s degree in geography from Clark University in Worcester Mass. She came to the area and received a master’s degree in geography from East Tennessee State University. She has lived in Johnson City since 1978.

During that time, she’s served on several nonprofit boards, including The Road Company, an improvisational touring theater company based in Johnson City and active from 1972 until 1998. She also has worked in the Kingsport Planning Department as their long-range planner.

Fischman worked at the Center for Appalachian Studies Services on their publication Now & Then magazine, followed in 2005 by her entry into freelance work. She also has served on the Johnson City Area Arts Council board of directors and was former president of the B’ Sholom Congregation.

“I think the County Commission needs to be more responsible for all 125,000 county residents,” she said. “I don’t have an agenda other than serving everyone in the county. I think we need to take a close look at education in the county to make sure there is parity between the city and county school systems.

“We need to continue to work toward economic development and keep the Washington County Economic Development Council active. We need to pursue more growth and increase the tax base. We really need to make sure to strive for that.”

Fischman is married and has two daughters. She ran unsuccessfully in 2012 for a seat in the state House, losing to incumbent Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, 7th, though she landed 34.2 percent of the vote

McAllister, 53, was born in Alabama but moved to Johnson City when he was 6 years old.

He graduated from Science Hill High School and then garnered a bachelor’s degree in health administration from ETSU. McAllister, a former ROTC member, joined the U.S. Army in 1983. He served as a medical recruiter, company commander, executive officer and platoon leader.

His last assignment was at the Pentagon, with duty at the Army Surgeon General’s office. He later was part of the initial working group for the Warrior Transition Command, which helped improved care and treatment for Wounded Warriors.

When he returned to Johnson City, he did some consulting and then retired. McAllister is the Johnson City Washington County Veterans Memorial Committee vice chair, on the 2014-2015 Johnson City Noon Rotary Board of Directors, serves on several military advisory boards and attends Munsey Memorial Church.

“I’ve served our country for many years, and now I want to serve our county,” he said. “I’ve been in a leadership position before. I’ve lived all over the country and I still think Washington County is the best place to live.

McAllister is single, and he has not run for public office before this year.

Tester, 34, was born in Johnson City and attended school at Washington County’s Lamar Elementary.

His father’s job transfer landed him in a Cincinnati, Ohio, suburb, where he graduated from Fairfield High School. He then attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville, earning a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering with minors in business administration and environmental engineering.

After college, he accepted a job at Johnson City’s Beeson Lusk and Street as a civil/structural engineer. He has worked there the past 12 years.

Tester is a former Eagle Scout and attends Embreeville Church of Christ

“I’m just a concerned citizen bothered by some things,” he said. “If elected, I’d approach my position as a public servant, and I would make myself available to all citizens. I also would not accept county insurance.

Tester is single. He has never run for public office.

England was born in Springfield, Tenn., and lived there until he was 13. He lived in Nashville for a time and moved to Memphis where he graduated from Messick High School. He then received three degrees at the University of Memphis: a bachelor’s in police administration, a master’s in guidance and counseling and another master’s in teaching/sociology.

England went to work with the Memphis Police Department in 1965 and obtained his degrees during his seven years with that department. He later got a job at ETSU as an assistant professor of criminal justice.

He decided to run for Washington County sheriff at the age of 32. He served a total of 18 years and then became an affiliate broker, and later an insurance agent. In 2002, he went to work with Washington County Schools where he remains employed today as a teacher at Asbury High School.

England was appointed by former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander to serve for two years on the state’s Law Enforcement Planning Commission. He also was the Washington County 911 Emergency Communication director for the first eight years of its existence.

“The four years that I served on the (county) commission, we had a spirit of cooperation,” he said. “We built two schools and relocated the health department. I took three days off from work to get signatures on my petition (for this year). The number one thing people brought to me was their concern over a lack of cooperation on the commission. I can help bring back that spirit.

“I’m interested in doing everything I can to help. We also have a school building issue on the horizon. I want to a part of that process.”

England is married and has two children and four grandchildren. Besides his tenure as sheriff, he served one term on the commission from 2006-2010.

Zukas, 60, was born in Baltimore, Md., moving to Johnson City when he was 5. He attended St. Mary’s School until the 6th grade when his family moved to Jonesborough, where he graduated from Jonesborough High School in 1971.

After serving in the U.S. Army, he received a bachelor of science degree in psychology from ETSU, and later earned a master of science degree in counseling from the University of North Texas.

He began working with abuse victims, children in foster care, participating in sexual crimes investigations and mentoring youth in state custody. He then trained foster and adoptive parents in therapeutic techniques to work with special needs children while at Watauga Mental Health and later Frontier Health.

For the past 13 years, he has been a rehabilitation counselor with the State of Tennessee working with people with disabilities, providing career counseling, helping seek educational and training opportunities in areas focusing on their abilities and finally assisting with finding employment.

“My objective is to be a true representative for the people of my district, a community I have lived in over 35 years,” he said. “I believe we the people have lost control of our government and need to start being more informed and involved. I am tired of professional politicians who have self serving motives while making decisions for me based on what they alone think is right.

“If the majority of people I serve have different views than mine then I need to do what I’m elected to do and advocate for them, regardless of my stance. This is not intended to be a stepping stone to further my aspirations in politics as inferred by other candidates. My sight is on local issues meant to improve this part of the state.”

Zukas is married and has two children and one grandchild. He has not run for public office before this year.

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