By Scott Robertson
The former president of the Washington County Republican Women, Betty Ziesel, has entered the race for the District 6 seat of the Washington County Commission. Tom Foster was elected to that seat a year and a half ago, but resigned from the commission last fall. The commission then appointed Dr. Paul Stanton to fill Foster’s seat until the next election, which begins today with early voting. Ziesel and Stanton are the only two candidates vying to serve out the rest of Foster’s term.
Ziesel, who resigned her position with the Republican Women to run for this office, was born and raised in western Kentucky, where she attended Draughons College, majoring in accounting. “About nine months into my college, the Civil Service people came by and offered the Civil Service Exam for anyone who was interested in going to work for the government,” Ziesel says. “I was one of three who must have passed with flying colors, because at the age of 18-and-a-half, I found myself moving to the District of Columbia and working at the Pentagon for NATO.”
Ziesel says she worked there for three years before her high school sweetheart proposed and the young couple moved to Atlanta where Ziesel’s then-husband became a pilot with Delta Airlines. Her years in Georgia included the beginning of a career with Equifax as an administrative assistant, the birth of a daughter, the divorce from her first husband, and a climb up the corporate ladder that eventually saw her become chief operating officer of a hospital bill auditing firm. After taking early retirement, she met and married Leonard, with whom she relocated to Washington County in 2006.
Ziesel says she has always had an interest in politics, but only became involved on any significant level when she helped the Rick Santorum campaign win the Tennessee primary four years ago. She has remained engaged on the political scene since. She is often the only citizen with no item on the agenda in attendance at the various meetings of the county commission’s standing committees.
Armed with the first-hand knowledge of the committees’ actions, Ziesel has made a name for herself as a sometimes-outspoken critic of the current county commission. And, she says, should she be elected, she’ll continue to ask tough questions about how and why the commission works the way it does.
However, she says she believes that fact should not make it difficult to work with other commissioners. “I’ve always been very successful in getting along with people, even if they grit their teeth when they see me coming. I’ve always been able to accomplish a lot and eventually break through that wall.”
Ziesel says she is in favor of the resolution regarding same-sex marriage that drew the largest crowd of interested citizens in recent memory to last month’s commission meeting. Touching on other issues facing the commission, she says she has concerns about the proposed creation of an investment policy for idle county funds, is unsure TIF money is being used to best effect, does not believe County Mayor Dan Eldridge has legal standing to remove himself from the Budget Committee, and is against the current reapportionment plan.
Early voting runs through 6 p.m., Feb. 23. Election day is March 1.