Editor’s Note: The Johnson City Chamber of Commerce recently presented a questionnaire to the two candidates for the office of Washington County Mayor. Candidates were asked to limit their answers to 50 words or less. Early voting starts on July 13 and runs through July 28. Election Day is Aug. 2. Questionnaires for the County Commission races can be found at: http://www.johnsoncitytnchamber.com/government-relations/
What qualifications do you bring to the office of Mayor?
Joe Grandy: The County mayor is a Leadership and Management position. I have over 40 years of management and Leadership experience growing a business from a few associates to a multi- million-dollar enterprise. I have held leadership roles in many organizations in our community over the years.
James Reeves: Honesty, integrity, 30 years interacting with people who own from Escorts to BMWs. 30 years of asking politicians to stop profiting from government. The Mayor is the CFO and I’ve spent 12 years studying the County’s budgets. I believe in the rule of law and the Constitution.
What are the top three priorities you will address after the election?
Grandy: Continue to manage the county’s finances effectively while caring for our employees. Support education programs that create high achievement outcomes and expanded career Technical opportunities which our Economic Development Engine needs. Expand domestic water systems in unserved areas of our county.
Reeves: Repair the people’s trust in county government. Work with the County School Board to address their needs. Listen, learn and react to the needs of all the people of the county, not a select few.
How will you improve relationships through collaboration between Johnson City/Washington County/Jonesborough?
Grandy: Communication is the key to improving the relationship between our community stakeholders. I will propose regular meetings with the key leaders, all sitting at one table to establish the vision. This is the process I used in business to expand and prepare for the future.
Reeves: County Mayor should attend meetings of the City of Johnson City and of the Town of Jonesborough to have a thorough understanding of their respective needs, wants and issues.
How will you improve working relationships between Johnson City/Washington County Schools?
Grandy: Developing an understanding of the needs for both of the school systems is essential. Communication will be required to create the relationship between those people who have the obligation to support the needs. I will encourage both BOE’s to meet and be collaborative with available resources.
Reeves: County Mayor should attend the meetings of the Johnson City School board and Washington County School Board, especially since a large portion of funding comes from county property taxes. Creating an understanding of their needs, wants and issues.
Under what circumstances will you recommend property taxes be raised?
Grandy: Provided the capital project plan is implemented and followed to manage existing debt and projected projects, there should be no need for a tax increase in the foreseeable future.
Reeves: The budget committee has implemented a capital project fund. This fund accumulates $6 million each year, there should be no reason to raise property taxes. Depending on how bad the current Administration has botched future budgets, I would prefer to give money back to the citizens.
How do you propose to broaden the tax base to increase revenue to the County?
Grandy: Regional cooperation across all of Northeast Tennessee is key to growing the tax base. This will improve our access to new economic development opportunities provided by the State of Tennessee. It would also allow us to leverage the resources for marketing our area for business and tourism.
Reeves: Together we can build a relationship to build our tax base and to take care of our own. Supporting current industry and developing places like the exit at Fall Branch. An open-door policy to listen to any idea that can help us become the best county in the state.
How will you and the Commission work with the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Chamber of Commerce?
Grandy: As Mayor, I will support the chamber in its role to enhance and expand our business community and request the commission to do likewise. I will support the chamber’s role in Regional cooperation and take a leadership role in that effort.
Reeves: The mayor’s office will always be open to suggestions that can make Washington County the best that it can be.
In a time when there are more requests for services than there are resources, what is your approach and philosophy for budget management and fiscal responsibility?
Grandy: In government, as in business, all the needs must be prioritized. Separate the wants from needs. The basic functional government requirements of public safety and public health should be satisfied first, then work down the list of priorities of other services.
Reeves: Government’s duty on a local level is to protect and serve, along with educating the children. In times of need we need to come together as a community and act as one and help each other as best we can. You cannot tax your way out of a crisis.
What is your position on incentives in economic development?
Grandy: Economic Development is a competitive business. Incentives are a necessary part of business recruitment and expansion provided by a combination governmental entities. The issue is to include accountability metrics measure to measure and quantify the results and economic impact for our community.
Reeves: I have always had a hard time with incentives to increase economic development, but I’m willing to listen to anything that can help the good citizens of Washington County.
What is your strategy to enhance economic, community, and industrial development in Washington County and the region?
Grandy: The first priority is to improve and develop our available workforce. This is needed to serve our existing business base as well as recruitment. Next, we need to strategically invest in quality opportunities for business expansion and recruitment. Finally, support a regional effort to market and recruit new business.
Reeves: We need to develop a plan to create a workforce that will be beneficial to our county. As moves to regionalism have occurred we need to listen to the county’s farmers and do what we can to make sure they still have a viable market for their goods.
Would you maintain or modify the capital improvement plan that is currently in place? Explain.
Grandy: The capital plan that has been recently developed is a roadmap to manage a significant portion of the county’s finances and needs to be maintained. As with any business plan, this plan will need to be updated and modified on a regular basis as circumstances dictate.
Reeves: Capital projects plan will eventually evolve back into regular budgeting. The plan was developed to be used as a slush fund as the budget committee and the mayor saw fit. Washington County has survived decades without a capital project plan and will again, without it.
Why are you running for County Mayor?
Grandy: To see my county thrive, providing an environment to retrain and attract the best. I bring the experience in Leadership and management required to make Washington County prosper and the unique ability to work with multiple levels of people across our city, town, region and state to achieve this vision.
Reeves: To put trust back into government. My dream is to have a government that is for and by the People, not special interest groups. Our forefathers presented us with a blueprint for self-governance that is based on the high moral standards set on to us by the Lord Almighty.