City voters: Go vote in county elections

Johnson City Press • Apr 26, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Today is your last chance to vote early in the county primary, but you’ll still have one last shot to make your voice heard at your precinct on Tuesday.

Take that shot, no matter where you live. If you’re registered, go vote today or on Election Day.

Members of our Community Advisory Board, a group that advises our staff on news content and opinion matters, rightly took us to task this week for not clearly prodding city residents into participating in county elections.

So why should residents of Johnson City, Jonesborough, Erwin, Elizabethton and other area municipalities care about county government enough to go to the polls?

1. It’s your money. If you own a home, you pay county property taxes like any other homeowner outside the city limits. The officials you elect — the mayor and commissioners — determine how those dollars are used and managed.

2. The property assessor determines the value of your property, affecting how much you pay in taxes.

3. If you have children or grandchildren in either city or county schools, county taxes in part determine how well-funded both districts are.

4. You may drive on county roads when you venture outside a city’s limits.

5. You have a major stake in law enforcement. Along with maintaining order, the sheriff’s office operates the jail housing all inmates in a county. Cities are not required to have jails. The sheriff also staffs bailiffs in the court system and serves warrants and summonses.

6. The county clerk, the Circuit Court clerk and the register of deeds all manage documents and personnel key to lives of all county residents. The county trustee handles all money that flows through a county and manages how funds are invested.

We could go on. County government is just as vital to a city voter as it is to someone living outside the corporate limits.

This election cycle in Washington County, for example, voters will choose a new county mayor, register of deeds, Circuit Court clerk and trustee. All current holders of those offices chose not to seek new terms. Incumbent Sheriff Ed Graybeal and County Clerk Kathy Storey are unopposed.

Voters also will elect a new Washington County Commission of sorts, as the body will move from 25 commissioners to just 15, each as the sole representative of a district.

While all races technically will not be settled until the August general election, the primaries are especially important in Northeast Tennessee. The Republican primary usually determines the winner. In many cases, there is no opposition in August. Only the county mayor’s race and some commission districts will be contested.

So this primary is particularly significant, and city voters need to be heard.

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