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Unicoi candidates brace for GOP primary

Brad Hicks • May 3, 2014 at 9:42 PM

ERWIN — The offices of Unicoi County mayor, sheriff, county clerk and several seats on the Unicoi County Commission will be the subject of voting in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Two candidates are squaring off for the office of county mayor. Incumbent mayor Greg Lynch wants to keep his job for at least four more years, while Johnny Day, his opponent in the primary, is hoping to unseat Lynch.

• Day is a Unicoi County native. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee and a master’s of business administration from the University of New Mexico. He has prior experience in the engineering field, and he later started his own company in 1981. Day also has decades of experience in business startups and rescues and assisting businesses with their operations, he said.

• Lynch is also a Unicoi County native and has served as county mayor since 2006. He earned a bachelor’s degree in corrections from East Tennessee State University, and in the early 1980s, started Greg’s Drive-In restaurant in Erwin, which he and his family operated for around 20 years. Lynch also has prior experience working as a youth services officer and with misdemeanor probation clients in Sessions Court prior to his election to the county mayor’s office.

The winner of the primary between Day and Lynch will go on to face former Unicoi County mayor Larry Rose, who is running as an independent candidate, in the August general election.

Three candidates are vying for sheriff in the Republican primary — incumbent sheriff Mike Hensley, James Lengel and Tony Buchanan. All three bring with them years of law enforcement experience.

• Buchanan served as constable of the county’s 2nd District from 1998 to 2010, and from 1999 to 2007, he worked as a student resource officer at Unicoi County High School. He began his career with the Erwin Police Department when he was hired as a patrolman.

In 2008, Buchanan was promoted to the position of lieutenant detective with the Erwin Police Department. He is a member of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, Tennessee Meth/Pharmaceutical Task Force, Fraternal Order of Police and the Child Protective Investigative Team.

• Hensley was appointed to serve as interim sheriff on March 26, 2012, following the resignation of former sheriff Kent Harris, and was elected to fill Harris’ unexpired term in August 2012. Hensley has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, most of which comes from this work with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department.

Prior to his election as sheriff, Hensley worked in various capacities at the UCSD. He previously served as a dispatcher and jailer. He later earned the rank of captain while working as a patrol officer and was later promoted to investigator. He was eventually promoted to captain of the department’s Criminal Investigations division, and Hensley was later promoted to chief deputy of the department.

• Lengel, an Ohio native who challenged Hensley in the 2012 election, is a U.S. military veteran who graduated from Kent State University in Ohio with a degree in criminal justice. He has prior experience working with the U.S. Secret Service and for a suburban police agency in Bainbridge, Ohio.

He has also served as chief deputy sheriff of Geauga County, Ohio. After retiring, Lengel worked with the U.S. Marshals Service, and after moving to Unicoi County around seven years ago, began working as a probation officer.

In a rematch from the 2010 election, incumbent Mitzi Bowen and Patty Treadway will again vie for the office of County Clerk. Less than a dozen votes separated the two in 2010, with Bowen edging out Treadway.

• Bowen has worked in the clerk’s office since 1997 and was elected as a county commissioner in 2006. Prior to her election as clerk in 2010, she served as chief deputy clerk of the office.

• Treadway has prior experience in accounting and banking, and she has worked in county mayor’s office for the past decade working with county payrolls, budgets, taxes and other accounting aspects of the county’s finances.

Changes are in store for the County Commission following this year’s election, as four members of the nine-member panel have opted not to seek re-election. They are Sue Jean Wilson, Dwight Bennett, James Howell and Mickey Hatcher.

Each of the county’s three districts is represented by three seats on the commission. First-District candidates are current commission Chairwoman Marie Rice, Loren Thomas, Gene Wilson, Stacy Wigand and Joey Bailey.

Second-District candidates are Kenneth Garland, Bill Hensley, Brian Delp, Jason Harris, Glenn White and Donald “Stephen” Wilson.

The top three vote-getters among these candidates after Tuesday’s primary will square off against Democratic candidates Robert Martin and Richard Smith in the August general election.

Three new faces will represent the county’s 3rd District on the commission. Candidates seeking seats in this district are Kenneth Calain, Walter Garland, James McLellan, John Mosley and Bridget Peters.

Several local offices will be uncontested in the primary. David R. Shults is seeking re-election to the post of Sessions Court judge. Debbie McInturff is seeking another term as register of deeds. Trustee Paul Berry is seeking re-election. Superintendent of Roads Terry Haynes is unopposed, as is incumbent Circuit Court Clerk Darren Shelton.

Each of the county’s districts is represented by a constable, and each of these posts are uncontested. Howard Riddle is running for 1st District constable, Gary Wayne Edwards is running in the 2nd District and Timmy Lewis is running in the 3rd District.

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