Former Johnson City mayor assigned to committee promoting participation in 2020 census

David Floyd • Updated Oct 17, 2019 at 10:39 AM

Gov. Bill Lee has appointed former Johnson City Mayor David Tomita to serve on a 38-member committee working on the 2020 census in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Complete Count Committee will work alongside the U.S. Census Bureau to foster greater participation among Tennesseans in the census. Data from the census is used to determine the distribution of state and federal money and appointments to the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The census happens once every 10 years and it affects representation and funding, so we want to make sure that everybody who is countable is counted,” Tomita said, “so our committee is charged with keeping awareness high and trying to figure out how to increase our local response because every response is money.”

Tomita said the committee has so far held one meeting, which occurred in September.

“I’m sure we’ll meet as a committee again, but most of that work is going to be done here on the ground,” he said.

Tomita said he wants to make sure people know there isn’t a “specter of big brother” hanging over the census.

“We just want to know who’s here, right?” he said. “And numbers are important because that’s how our congressional districts are configured, by population, so if our population is down we may lose our representation or water down our representation. So it’s an important thing.”

Tomita served for five years on the Johnson City Commission, including two years as mayor, before stepping down in 2018. Tomita also served as Lee’s Northeast Tennessee finance chair during Lee’s campaign for the governorship.

Lee previously appointed Tomita as the East Tennessee representative on the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Tennessee households will receive a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2020 asking them to respond to the census. Residents will be able to respond online, by phone or by mail. The deadline is April 1, after which Tomita said officials will compile a list of addresses that haven’t responded and start knocking on doors. More information can be found at www.census.gov.

Other appointees include Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, Tennessee NAACP President Gloria Sweet-Love, Latinos for Tennessee Executive Director Raul Lopez and several officials from the governor’s office and state departments.

“I am proud to appoint these leaders and appreciate their willingness to serve our state and nation in this critical undertaking,” Lee said in a press release issued Wednesday announcing the members of the committee. “We look forward to working together to make sure all Tennesseans are accounted for and our state receives the necessary resources to support our growing population.”

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