Newcomers try for Loudon commission

By Hugh G. Willett,

Two political newcomers are vying for the only seat being contested on the Loudon County Commission in this week's election.

William Jenkins, a Democrat, is challenged by Republican Austin Shaver for the 2nd District, Seat B, which represents the Lenoir City area.

The seat is being vacated by Shirley Reno, who served as interim appointee when former 2nd District, Seat B commissioner Chuck Jenkins was appointed property assessor.

Jenkins, 28, is an employee of the Lenoir City Parks and Recreation Department. This is his first run for public office.

"The main reason I'm running is the school system," Jenkins said. "For some reason, they are not getting the money they need."

It's not that there isn't enough money, Jenkins said, but he is not sure if it's being properly allocated.

"It's hard to tell just where the money is going until I can get in there and look at how things are being run," he said.

Jenkins said he does not support the wheel tax, which is supposed to generate several million dollars per year for the schools.

"I think there is enough money without the wheel tax."

Jenkins said he is also opposed to recent proposals by county commission aimed at raising the medical insurance rates for county workers.

"I'm for the working man," he said. "I don't think it's fair to ask the county workers to pay more for insurance."

Austin Shaver, 25, is a 2007 graduate of the University of Tennessee law school and is employed by the Knoxville law firm of Kennerly, Montgomery & Finley PC.

Shaver, who lives in Lenoir City, said his priorities are transparency in government and the accountability of elected officials to their constituents. This is also his first run for public office.

"I think it is important that we as commissioners remember who we were elected to represent," Shaver said.

Shaver said he is opposed to all new taxes, including property tax increases and the proposed wheel tax. He is also in favor of the Tennessee Property Tax Freeze Act of 2007, which would limit increases of property taxes for senior citizens aged 65 and older.

Shaver said he is concerned about rising insurance costs for county employees and would like to limit those increases wherever possible. If insurance costs are to be raised, they should be raised for new hires first, he added.

The school building program is one of Shaver's priorities, but unlike many on the commission and the school board, he believes the report prepared in 2007 by the Public Building Authority at a cost to the county of $50,000 should be used as a guideline for the program.

While some estimates have put the building plan as high as $150 million, Shaver believes the PBA estimate of about $42 million is closer to the mark.