Jones seeks District 4 Washington County Commission seat

Gary B. Gray • Feb 22, 2017 at 11:39 PM

Washington County Commissioner Katie Baker is expected to nominate Jodi Polaha Jones on Monday to fill the District 4 County Comission seat left vacant by former commissioner and now-Johnson City Mayor David Tomita.

Jones is the fourth nominee vying to serve out the remainder of Tomita’s term, which expires at the next county general election in 2018. Former Commissioner Phil McPeak, retired 1st Judicial District Chancellor Richard Johnson and Johnson City Cardinals’ General Manager Tyler Parsons also are interested in the position.

Once nominated, candidates are elected by a simple majority. The successor will share representation of District 4 with Baker and Lee Chase. Jones said she was reaching out to commissioners this week for support.

Jones, an associate professor in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Family Medicine, has lived in Johnson City for 10 years. She is a clinical psychologist, researcher, and public health/prevention scholar with 20 years of experience working in primary care.

From 2011 to 2014, she served as Southside Neighborhood Organization president, leading key initiatives around zoning, historic preservation, and the development of seven Little Free Libraries in the Tree Streets.

"Beyond my specific expertise and knowledge base, I bring strong listening skills, which I believe are essential for any representative and advocate,” Jones said. “I honed these as a psychologist and practice them often in my community work.

“Of course, great listening is empowered by strong advocacy, and I bring that too. I get a great deal of satisfaction from a well-powered discussion around community improvement or change in which I am prepared to advocate for my community in a way that finds common ground across competing interests."

Jones has served as Johnson City Food Cooperative Interest Group chair since 2014, bringing together a range of the region’s stakeholders, including those interested in local agriculture, community building, art, sustainability, downtown development and generating greater economic diversity in Johnson City.

The development of a member-owned community cooperative, in partnership with Knoxville’s Three Rivers Market, can potentially create a regional corridor for locally produced/made foods and goods that are effectively distributed.

Her husband, Steven Jones, is a 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran, currently earning his master’s degree in geosciences at ETSU. Her two sons attend Johnson City Schools.

The Jones family is well known for its enthusiasm for the outdoors. She is a mountain biking enthusiast, and has served on the Tannery Knob Task Force since September 2016.

"I find my work in the service of public interest and community development to be very rewarding, and would welcome the chance to direct my energy toward work with the Washington County Commission,” she said. “I have seven years’ experience with my sons attending our public schools, and I believe I could provide an important perspective in that area.

“My work in the neighborhood provided me with relevant experiences around civic business such as zoning, improvement costs and gauging the best interests of the community. My experience with the food co-op has developed my knowledge base in business development, commercial real estate, market analysis and economic diversity.”

Email Gary Gray at [email protected]. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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