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Mayoral candidates stress communication with citizens

Robert Houk • Updated Jul 10, 2018 at 8:53 AM

Republican nominee Joe Grandy and independent candidate James Reeves are vying to succeed Dan Eldridge, who is not seeking re-election as Washington County mayor after two terms in office. Early voting in the Aug. 2 election begins Friday.

1.What is it about your personality and professional background that makes you the most qualified person to hold this office?

Grandy: My experience leading a business and various organizations over the years has sharpened my skills in building personal relations, creating a vision and implementing a plan. In dealing with people and situations, my goal is to reach a resolution that is as fair as possible to all parties in the art of the deal.

Professionally, I led the growth of a multi-million dollar business in our community over the past 30 years. I owned the responsibility of forecasting, planning and budgeting for this organization of over 80 associates. These skills of successful business management make me uniquely qualified for the challenges of the office of mayor.

Reeves: I have spent 30 years interacting with people from all walks of life, from those who own Ford Escorts to those who drive a Mercedes-Benz. Of those years, 20 were spent working near downtown Johnson City and six years were spent building my auto repair business.

I built my relationship with the community with honesty and integrity and in civic duty. I will bring a deep-rooted belief in rule of law and in the United States Constitution. I started the petition against the wheel tax, which we the people voted down.

2. What do you think is the most important issue the new Washington County mayor will face?

Grandy: The most important issues our county currently face are the availability of high quality jobs and the lack of growth in our tax base. High quality job opportunity for our young people is necessary to stem the out migration of our best and brightest folks to markets where these career positions exist. We develop outstanding talent that we need to keep in our market. This will begin to address the issue of our economic growth, which is the only way we have to keep our tax rates the lowest in the region.

Reeves: The mayor must regain the trust of the citizens of Washington County. With each election, fewer and fewer citizens vote because our distrust of government grows with every broken promise and power grab. Citizens just do not trust the county government at any level.

Improving communication can be the key to regaining that trust. In Washington County, the mayor needs to be a liaison between the separate entities that make our great county — the unincorporated part of the county, the town of Jonesborough, the city of Johnson City, the Johnson City Board of Education and the Washington County Board of Education.

3. What are your goals for economic development in Washington County?

Grandy: Job creation will be the number one priority for economic development in Washington County. In particular, the focus needs to be on jobs that raise the median income of our workers. Knowing that roughly three quarters of all new jobs are created by our existing business, the focus will be on providing the opportunity for them to grow and expand.

The business recruitment model will take into consideration return on investment and accountability where incentives are required to be competitive with other markets. Prospects with high-paying jobs will receive the greatest consideration.

Reeves: We have several development boards in our area, and I will listen to their viewpoints on how we should move forward. I do not believe we should shovel money to fund corporations from the pockets of taxpayers, but we should create an environment that makes corporations want to come here.

We also need to better prepare our children to fill future jobs in Washington County. As a tradesman, I have a deep understanding of the lack of young adults entering the trades. We, as a county, should do better for our children.

4. What are your spending priorities for capital projects?

Grandy: Schools receive the highest priority for capital project spending. Currently, the Boones Creek K-8 School is under way with a scheduled completion within the next 12 months. At this point the majority of funding for that project will be in cash. A Jonesborough K-8 renovation has been partially funded and awaits an approved plan.

Other capital projects that will be under consideration include the exterior renovation of the historic courthouse in Jonesborough. This building, now over 100 years old, is past due for a facelift and upgraded, efficient HVAC system.

Reeves: As mayor, I would sit down with the Washington County Department of Education and devise a plan for our school system as it pertains to the new Boones Creek school and the future of the school in Jonesborough. This is an immediate need. Two of my children currently attend these school, so I have a personal investment in improving education in our county.

Bringing jobs through economic development and utilizing our agricultural community to bring revenue to our county are priorities.

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