Former Johnson City Commissioner Phil Carriger may seek Hill’s 7th House District seat

Gary B. Gray • Sep 13, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Former Johnson City Commissioner Phil Carriger said Thursday he is seriously considering taking on incumbent state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, for the 7th House District seat, beginning with an entrance into the 2014 Republican primary.

Carriger said he has been approached by a number of people about running for the spot and that he is the process of “doing the groundwork” before he makes an official decision.

“I haven’t made a firm decision yet, but I’ve been doing some research,” he said. “The guy in there’s an incumbent, and it would be a tough spot to fill. If I do decide to run, I’ll likely announce sometime in October.”

The plainspoken and financially savvy Carriger was at the crux of many critical decisions during his one four-year term as commissioner and vice mayor. He has traditionally been the city’s “go-to-guy” when talk turned to capital spending priorities, the economy and state mandates — subjects that require a broad understanding of how the economy works.

Last year, during talks about Johnson City Schools’ budget and the frustrations about getting spending in order, Carriger, as was usually the case, got everyone’s attention as he addressed City Manager Pete Peterson, letting out a controlled but booming statement: “The legislators keep pushing a mounting number of problems down to the local level. When’s the last time the city has brought them in to see the reality of the situation?”

That spurred more talk about how legislators needed a reminder of who put them in office and who pays their salaries. It was also at that time when several Board of Education members told him he would make a good representative at the state level.

“I’ve been talking to some folks that have knowledge of politics and about what’s going on,” he said. “I’m asking what some of the strengths and weaknesses the incumbent has. But this is not meant to be a career for me. It’s like the city, where I served one four-year term. I’ll just have to see how things go.”

Carriger, who sports a grin more times than not, is a Bank of Tennessee board of directors member who also provides financial consulting. He was elected as a city commissioner in 2009. He also serves on various nonprofit boards and has amassed 36 years of banking experience in Knoxville, New Orleans and Johnson City.

He grew up on Meredith Street with his three older brothers, helping his mother and father work on the family farm. He also started Peoples Bank in 1995. Last year, he stepped down as a member of the Johnson City Power Board’s board of directors after wrapping up his second four-year term.

Hill easily outpaced Democrat Nancy Fischman of Johnson City to win re-election in November.

Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., he grew up in Northeast Tennessee and is a children’s radio minister, hosting the weekend broadcast “Bible Buddies WHCB Kid’s Show with Mr. Matthew.” Hill also is a director and co-owner of Blountville-based Right Way Marketing, a political telemarketing firm.

He was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004. He was re-elected in 2006, defeating Fred Phillips, former Washington County sheriff and Tennessee Department of Safety director.

Hill is the state’s House Local Government Committee chairman, and a member of the following House committees: Finance, Ways and Means; Calendar and Rules; Local Government subcommittee and the Joint Fiscal Review committee.

City Commissioner Clayton Stout also is considering a run against state Rep. Micah Van Huss R-Jonesborough, to serve the 6th District. Van Huss entered the political arena for the first time last year and promptly knocked incumbent state Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, out of the running for a chance at a fourth term.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article referenced Washington County's May primary elections. The state House primaries will be Aug. 7.

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