With incumbent Arp's absence, race for Loudon mayor is on

Candidates stress improving schools, fiscal obligations

Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

The decision by Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp not to run for a second term in the upcoming August election has opened the field for a broad spectrum of candidates.

For the four Republicans running in a county that hasn't elected a Democratic mayor in almost 30 years, it's all about the primary in May.

Van Shaver, a former county commissioner and current school board member, announced his second bid for county mayor months ago.

He said the biggest issue in the election will be improving the schools.

"We have got to move the school building program forward," he said.

Fiscal responsibility is another crucial aspect of the county mayor's job, he said.

Shaver said funding the school building program without raising property taxes will be one of his biggest priorities.

"We have to be very careful with how we spend the money," he said.

Shaver said his experience as a small businessman and farmer combined with his experience in county government qualify him for the challenges facing the county.

Fiscal responsibility is also the cornerstone of Estelle Herron's campaign. Herron has been in the trustee's office for 25 years - the past 12 as county trustee.

"The budget is the first thing I will sink my teeth into," Herron said.

She said she will prioritize funding the school building program. The greatest challenge is getting the school board and the county commission to work together, she said.

"I get along with everyone on the commission and the school board. I think I can help improve the communication," she said.

The idea of becoming the first woman elected as Loudon County mayor doesn't intimidate Herron, either.

"I think women are more detail oriented," she said.

Republican candidates Mark Matlock, a Lenoir City developer, and Glen Hagerman Jr. did not return calls.

Matt Brookshire is the lone Democrat in the county mayor's race. Brookshire, who was elected to his fourth term as Lenoir City mayor by a strong majority in 2008, isn't about to concede that a Democrat can't win the county mayor's race.

The key challenges facing the county, including improving the schools and fiscal responsibility, are non-partisan issues on which everyone in the county should be cooperating, he said.

"I'm not running to be the Democratic mayor," he said. "On a local level I think voters will be able to look past party affiliations."

As a full-time middle school teacher and liaison to the Lenoir City school board, he said he understands the challenges of improving the schools.

"I want positive leadership for Loudon County," he said.