County mayor focused on spending, jobs

Jeremy Styron

Although Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw branded himself as a political outsider in the run-up to the May primary — a message that seemed to resonate with voters — the new executive in the last few weeks has become ensconced in county business, learning the budgetary ropes and solidifying his vision to reduce excess spending and support job growth.

“My claim to fame so to speak on the campaign trail was that I’m not a politician,” Bradshaw said, noting that he offers “new perspectives, new outlooks” on county government. “I’m not set in my ways when it comes to serving.”

Bradshaw, who has spent time meeting with officials from the University of Tennessee County Technical Assistance Service, the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization and other agencies since taking office, said the transition to the new administration went “pretty smoothly.”

“The old saying you give a man a fish and you can feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you can feed him for a lifetime,” Bradshaw said. “There’s no substitute for experience, so jumping in with both feet that’s been the best way to teach, just jump in and do it.”

Bradshaw said he decided to run for office this year after considering a Loudon County Commission bid four years ago.

“It was not a jump over the cliff kind of a deal, but I felt like the timing was right, the opportunity was there,” Bradshaw said. “I just felt like that was my time to try and work hard, and (I) had a very successful campaign.”

He said his goals for the next four years included reining in spending in the county budget and attracting quality jobs.

“How do we get them to Loudon?” Bradshaw said, outlining one question he was considering. “If we can get them in I think our work base here is solid. Loudon County citizens, they’ll work if the jobs are there, but we need to be attractive to those jobs.”

He pointed to Ceramica Del Conca as an industry that has been an asset to Loudon County.

“I’d love to see us land a good quality job base here whether it’s manufacturing, automotive, whatever it may be,” Bradshaw said. “They’re bringing more jobs for folks to come in and work and support families.”

He said another goal he had was to foster a more amicable relationship between Loudon County Commission and the Loudon County Board of Education, noting that he planned to hold meetings every few months with Director of Schools Jason Vance, Commission Chairman Steve Harrelson and BOE Chairman Ric Best.

“There was some tension between the mayor’s office (and the BOE), and I guess that kind of bled over a little bit into commission and the board of education,” Bradshaw said. “We’re going to bridge that gap. We’re going to mend that fence because the bottom line, we’re all on the same team. We all answer to the taxpayer.”

In a change of plans from former Mayor Estelle Herron’s administration, Bradshaw does not plan to pursue moving the BOE offices into the Loudon County Technology Center to make space at the county office building. While the county is considering renovations to the LCTC roof, Bradshaw said he has no plans to renovate the county office building at this time.

“I promised to watch these pennies and nickels and dimes, and that’s what I intend to do,” Bradshaw said. “Never say never. There may be some stuff on the horizon that allows us to (renovate). Just depends on where we’re at it. It all comes down to money. If it’s sitting there, and that’s the best use for it, then we’ll look at it.”

A ‘good start’

Longtime Commissioner Harold Duff said although it’s too early to pass judgment on Bradshaw’s work as mayor, he thought the new executive brought an independent mind to county government.

“I think he’s off to a good start,” Duff said. “I think he’s going to be his own person. I like that about public officials.”

Duff said he thought Bradshaw would become a “take charge” person in carrying out county business.

“He will do what he thinks best for the county, or at least this is my initial impression of him, and I certainly hope that he’s successful because if he’s successful the county will be successful, but if he’s not, well, the county may not be as successful as they have the potential to be,” Duff said.

Loudon County Trustee Chip Miller, who first met Bradshaw on the campaign trail, said he was pleased about the mayor’s open door policy and his plan to bring a fresh outlook to the job.

“He’s very focused on saving taxpayers dollars, and we kind of have that in common,” Miller said. “I think we kind the share the mentality that if there’s a way of doing it better, smoother, easier, eventually that has to save taxpayers money.”

Miller said Bradshaw’s limited experience in county government could turn out to be a positive.

“I think what some would perceive as his biggest weakness is probably going to be one of his biggest strengths,” Miller said. “He’s not a career politician. He’s not had a lot of experience in that field, and I think that gives him a unique way of looking at things.”

Bradshaw, who has a wife, Elizabeth, of 14 years and three children, said he has a “great relationship” with commission and that each member brings something unique to the table. He said his favorite part about being mayor was working with members of the public.

“I learn something new every day,” Bradshaw said.