Candidates meet, greet in Tellico Village

Tammy Cheek News Herald

Tellico Villagers turned out Thursday to hear from candidates seeking county seats when Tellico Village HomeOwners Association (HOA) sponsored a Meet the Candidates event at Tellico Village Community Church.

Residents crowded into the church's Christian Life Center, some already wearing political buttons and stickers supporting their candidates of choice while others milled around candidates' tables offering buttons, brochures and other items. The first 30 minutes or so of the event provided residents and all candidates seeking county officers with the opportunity to chat. There were even refreshments made available to everyone who attended. 

Because of the sheer number of candidates, the HOA focused on only three races - general sessions judge, sheriff and county mayor. Facing Villagers in the audience, those candidates fielded questions presented by moderator Karen Brown. 

In the county mayor's race, candidates, Glen J. Hagerman, Estelle Herron, Mark Matlock, Van Shaver and Matt Brookshire answered what they intend to do to revive the public's trust in the county mayor's office. 

Matt Brookshire, who is currently mayor of Lenoir City, said he would get citizens more involved in government. "Look at my record," he said, noting he hasn't always done things that are popular because they were best for the city.  "It's not my government, it's government," he said. "One of the things I have done is to involve people more and ask them to serve in various capacities."

Hagerman said he would ensure there were no secrets. "What you see is what you get," he said. He offered town hall meetings as one vehicle toward that openness.

Herron agreed transparency and accountability are necessary. "I've always been honest and upfront," she said, adding she agrees with the town hall meetings. 

"If it takes going out into the community to keep people educated, I'm all for it," she said.
Matlock noted a person's reputation is the key. "One thing that travels with you is reputation," he said and added he believes in service-style leadership. 

Shaver quoted Thomas' Paine's "That government is best which governs least." Shaver said he supports less government intervention to bring honesty and openness to government. 

Another concern was "aging in place," in which senior citizens can live independently in their own homes. Brown asked what the candidates would do, if elected, to help develop programs for "aging in place." All candidates agreed on the importance of helping the elderly."We need to protect our citizens," Hagerman said. 

Brookshire agreed and noted the county has existing programs available that could be utilized. "I'm a firm believer in helping to take care of the elderly," Herron said. Depending on the cost, she said she would do all she could to help.

Matlock noted while not everything can be funded, public and private partnerships may help bring about some programs.

Shaver asserted he thinks the best way to help senior citizens is to keep their expenses - property taxes - down. "One way to boot seniors out of their homes is to keep raising taxes," he said. "We all want to keep our homes. We need to listen to approaches and take it to the county commission."

The final question for county mayor candidates is how they propose to bring in more revenues for the county.

Herron supported looking at tourism and seeing what the county is doing to make it more appealing and to get folks back to work.

Matlock, a developer himself, promotes more business development. "Loudon County is easy to sell," he said. "We need to work with them (businesses) and encourage them to be here. We need a proactive stand, not reactive."

Shaver said there needs to be a balance of growth (industries and businesses) and control of government spending. With growth in industries, he warned, however, the county needs to be careful of which industries it attracts.

Brookshire agreed and said the county needs to look at "quality" development. He said he also supports encouraging tourism, finding new ways to market vacant properties and taking care of county finances. One way, he said, is by more aggressively going after grant programs. 

Hagerman supported taking care of the businesses and industries the county already has. 

Running for general sessions judge are Kimberlee Waterhouse, Mary Longworth, Lee Ledbetter, Robert Hinton and Rex Dale. They answered their solution to the general sessions court's delays and continuances.

All candidates said they were not in favor of unnecessary continuances.

Dale said he is against unnecessary continuances, adding they work a hardship on everyone involved. 

Likewise, Hinton said lawyers need to be prepared as they go into court. He said a judge should "hold their feet to the fire and move it (proceedings) along."

Ledbetter said a scheduling system should be followed so the judge is more aware of how a case is proceeding and so the docket is more efficient. 

Longworth said while some continuances are understandable but at the same time, the continuances can be frustrating. She also encourages "moving things along." 

Waterhouse said she is "not in favor of wasting time and resources." She agreed scheduling needs to be done more efficiently. 

The candidates for judge were also asked about their stand on offenses involving children. Hinton said parents should be held more accountable for their children's actions. 

"I will make parents accountable for their children's actions," he assured. Ledbetter said the juvenile court does have a mentoring program. She advocated getting more citizens involved as mentors in that program. 

Longworth agreed there needs to be more community involvement and quoted "It takes a village to raise a child."

Waterhouse said she thinks there needs to be more appropriate supervision of children. "I don't care if it's a juvenile or an adult committing a crime, I'm against it," Dale said. At the same time, he said a judge needs to weigh all the factors involved. He advocated strictness on parents tempered with mercy when necessary. 

In the sheriff's race, incumbent Tim Guider and his challenger Steven Cook, were asked about the presence of patrol cars in the Village.

"I don't think you have enough officers in the Village," Cook replied. He insisted there were too many officers sitting in the office when they could be out in the communities, patrolling. 

Guider explained several years ago, the sheriff's office had a contract with the Property Owners Association (POA) in which the POA helped pay for four officers to patrol the Village. He said that agreement worked OK until costs rose and the POA pulled its funding. The Village then became a zone, like other communities in the county. "We treated the Village like everyone else,' Guider said. "We try to be fair. I think we have been." 

Cook and Guider were asked how they would use the Village's COPS program. 

Cook said he thinks the county needs to enhance the COPS program to provide a better check on the elderly. "I believe we can get a lot more patrol with COPS," he said. 

Guider said the COPS program has been a benefit to the Village. "We're not getting as many calls," he noted. 

Another question before sheriff's candidates was the enforcement of the speed limits.

Guider said since Highway 444 is a state road he uses the resources of the Tennessee Highway Patrol to issue tickets to those violating the speed limits. 

Cook agreed with using the THP and said citizens can also prosecute speeders. "If you see a car speeding, you can get their tag number and prosecute," he said. 

Finally, the candidates were asked what improvements they could make to the sheriff's budget. Cook said he hasn't seen the budget yet. Guider said his stand is to stay in budget and "continue to live within our means."