Carriger to seek seat held by Hill

Gary B. Gray • Apr 29, 2014 at 4:28 PM

Former Johnson City commissioner Phil Carriger announced Monday he will challenge incumbent state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, for Tennessee’s 7th House District seat in the Republican primary on Aug. 7, 2014.

In September, Carriger said he was approached by a number of people about running for the spot and said he was in the process of “doing the groundwork” before making an official decision. He now has made the most ambitious political commitment in his career thus far.

“I’ve given this a lot of thought,” he said. “My background in business and with the City Commission has helped me gain insight that I did not have. I’m convinced I have the support, and I think I can beat him.”

The move pits Carriger against Hill, a five-term House member with current and former family ties to the General Assembly, as well as solid backing from the tea party movement. But Carriger is focused on strengths he feels he can bring to Nashville and the 7th District that he says Hill does not possess.

“We need somebody in Nashville that has business and financial savvy. I don’t think Matthew has that,” Carriger said.

Carriger was many times at the crux of critical decisions during his single four-year term as commissioner and vice mayor in Johnson City. He was viewed as 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.

He also won favor from local school officials last year when, during a frustrated gathering at a workshop over state mandates, he let 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 Johnson City Board of Education members told him he would make a good representative at the state level, he said.

“I think he’s very qualified,” said Clayton Stout, a Johnson City commissioner challenging Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Johnson City, for the GOP’s 6th House District nod. “During my time working with him on the City Commission, he was very strong but had a calm demeanor. I look forward to him running.”

Carriger, who said he does not plan to make politics a career, is a Bank of Tennessee board of directors member who also provides financial consulting. He was elected as a city commissioner in 2009. He 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.

Carriger plans to make an official public announcement about his candidacy early next year.

“Nobody’s interested in politics during the holiday shuffle, so why waste your time and energy?” he said.

Hill, who is very familiar with Carriger, said Monday he continues to enjoy “overwhelming” support from the 7th District.

“I work hard every day to support our conservative and traditional values,” he said. “I also continue to be very, very thankful to the people of Washington County and the district.”

Hill is Appalachian Radio Group vice president of operations and a small-business owner in Johnson City.

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