CHURCH HILL — Five candidates are seeking two open seats in the Hawkins County Commission’s District 2 in Tuesday’s election, replacing two commissioners who left office this past summer.
District 2 represents the Church Hill and McPheeters Bend area, and both terms will expire in 2014 when the full 21-member County Commission comes up for election.
The Times-News sent each candidate a questionnaire with five identical questions. The following are excepts from their responses.
•Jeff Barrett has been employed at Hawkins County Gas Utility as purchasing director for 19 years and was appointed to replace Jeff Thacker on the commission pending the Nov. 6 election.
“I chose to run for this office because I sincerely believe it is my civic responsibility. We, as citizens of Hawkins County, appear to complain about what is not right in the county, but very few individuals are willing to accept the tremendous responsibility that is required to be a good leader involved in county government.”
“I would like to accomplish a reduction in the county debt, work with the sheriff’s office to reduce the drug problems, and improve our educational system. I would like to find ways to better fund our county expenses but not through taxes levied against property owners. We can expand our tax base if we can attract business to Hawkins County and encourage our citizens to shop local. Too much of our tax revenue goes to surrounding counties. Just look at the Hawkins County tagged cars in any business parking lot and you will see the lost tax revenues that just ‘walked out’ from Hawkins County.
“It has been an honor for me to seek election as your county commissioner, and I appreciate the support that I have received. It will be an honor and privilege to represent you as your county commissioner. I will do my best to represent you and respond to each inquiry to the best of my ability, always treating you with respect and dignity.”
•Fred Castle is “semi-retired” and owned a heating and cooling company. He was appointed to the commission to replace Dustin Dean pending the outcome of the Nov. 6 election.
“I have been encouraged by family and friends to run for this position. I want the people to have someone they can call and talk to about the concerns of the county. Being a servant to the citizens would be an honor. I want to help in watching our tax dollars spent wisely and our schools to be the best. The people of Church Hill and McPheeters Bend have been very good to me, and by being their commissioner I will be able to try and help in some way making our community a better place to live and raise our children.”
One goal if elected is to bring more industry into the county.
“(I plan to) work with fellow commissioners to prevent any tax raise and cut corners in all departments of the county to save the tax dollars or yet get quality service for our tax dollars. (My goal is) the best education for all the children of Hawkins County and work with the nonprofit organizations to help any way possible. (I want to) let all the people in the county know what’s going on and make our community an even better place to live.”
“If elected I will work for the people of Hawkins County to the end, and I will stand up and speak for all. ... I will be an active representative for you and be proud to serve you.”
•Daris Horne is retired from Eastman Chemical Co. He served as an officer on the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office for six years, followed by two years as a juvenile officer, and is HCSO chaplain. He is also a past member of the Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
“I was asked by several people to (run for County Commission). I enjoy serving people and will make my decisions based on what is in the best interests of the people.
“I feel my experience on my previous employment positions have given me a diverse background to serve as a commissioner for Hawkins County. (If elected) I would like to see better benefits for the employees of Hawkins County. The county employees are our best asset.”
“I am a people person and will be open to listen to the concerns of the citizens I would represent in District 2. I have nothing negative to say about any of the other candidates that are seeking this office. I would like to be elected on the principle of who I am and what I am all about.
“I would like to work for the growth of new business opportunities for our county. I know the difference between right and wrong, and the decisions I make will be based on what is right morally.”
•Jeret Ratliff has been employed as a deputy with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office for six years and previously worked as a patient care and surgical technician at Wellmont Health System.
“I chose to run for county commissioner to make a difference in the lives of the citizens of Hawkins County. I believe the community needs to have a voice and needs to be heard on any issue or concern. I am a person who is willing and able to be their voice and make a positive difference.”
“What I would like to see accomplished over the next four years is first and foremost to make our community a safer place, especially for our children. I would make sure all school buses are equipped with seat belts because our children are our future. I would like to work on funding issues with regards to more resources for our teachers. This would promote a much higher level of education for our children. I would like to propose more funding for our police officers and for all emergency personnel, and equipment needed to keep our community safe.
“I would like to generate more revenue and jobs by increasing restaurants and retail stores in our county. I would like to propose a plan for employees of Hawkins County to receive proper pay raises.”
“I would like to promote budgets being passed in a timely manner. I would strongly encourage that we focus on funding by grants for more youth programs. This will enable us to keep our children involved in activities and away from drugs and alcohol.”
•Dustin Smith graduated from East Tennessee State University with a bachelor of science degree in history and a minor in legal studies/political science. He is employed for “a local credit union” as a member services representative.
“Church Hill and McPheeters Bend deserve quality representation. We live in the most populous area of the county, yet it seems our voices are not being heard. The two men we are running to replace, Jeff Thacker and Dustin Dean, did a great job of cutting into the representation inequality in Rogersville, but there is still much work to be done. District 2 needs elected officials who will continue to stand up for and represent us.”
“We need to be doing more to encourage job growth. Let’s face it, 8 percent unemployment is not acceptable. In October of 2007, the unemployment rate was only 4.3 percent. It had more than tripled by May 2009. Since then, it has been slowly declining, but we need to be doing more to bring new jobs to the area. We shouldn’t settle for less.”
“Education is, by far, the most important thing our county does. Twenty years from now, it’s not going to matter how nice the roads are today. What will matter is how we educate our children. By working in conjunction with the Board of Education, we can strive to provide the best education available for our students without breaking the bank.”
“We need jobs. One of my highest priorities will be to get Hawkins County back to work. The county commissioners should do everything in their power to make our area more attractive to businesses looking to relocate or expand. We have the space and the work force to possess a thriving business community, yet we continue to lag behind surrounding counties. We must continue the trend of balancing the county budget. The key to long-term prosperity is avoiding taking on any unnecessary debt and making smart choices about spending. As commissioner, I would strive for a balanced budget without borrowing from the undesignated fund balance.”