Community raises $2,600 to assist Washington County school board member, dairy farmer

Zach Vance • Jul 8, 2018 at 7:00 AM

Keith Ervin is most known across Washington County as vice chairman of the Board of Education, but he’s also a dairy farmer.

Like many dairy farmers in Northeast Tennessee, Ervin’s business has struggled to survive in recent years; he now owes more than $7,000 in unpaid property taxes, dating back to 2015, for land he owns along Mayberry Road in Jonesborough.

A recent television news report on Ervin’s unpaid taxes spurred Washington County Commission candidate Tracy Hicks to launch a GoFundMe page to help the school board member out.

Since launching that site on July 3, the GoFundMe page has raised $2,600 from 47 donors, including one of Ervin’s challengers in the District 1 school board race.

“I knew people would band behind Keith because he is well-liked throughout the county, especially down on his end of the county. I’m actually shocked to see that it went so high, so quick,” Hicks said.

“The donations are coming from all over the county, from Boones Creek, from Gray, from Fall Branch, from Sulphur Springs ... I mean a lot of people across Washington County are making donations to support this man. I think that says a lot about our county that we’re not going to let someone down get beat on. We’re going to rally behind him and stand up for him.”

Hicks said he was at the hospital with his wife when he received a text about the news report on Ervin.

“I didn’t like what was happening with Keith, and anybody that’s anybody knows that was a political play. Someone was just trying to discredit him,” Hicks said. “He’s done a lot for Washington County schools. For somebody to pull something that low, it just pushed my button.”

A graduate of David Crockett High School, Ervin has served on the school board since 2006 and is currently chairman of the Family Life Committee and Sick Leave Bank. He’s also a member of the Washington County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.

Ervin did not return a call from the Johnson City Press seeking comment about the fundraiser.

“He’s a dairy farmer and they’re struggling right now,” said donor Kerrie Aistrop, who is running against Ervin in the Aug. 3 election. “It hurt my heart that this is what we’re going through in a school board election.”

Numerous people have commented on the GoFundMe page in support of Ervin.

“Keith is a good man who just wants what’s best for his community and family. Thank you Keith for never compromising who you are for a vote,” Rachael Bates wrote.

At 3 p.m. Monday, Aistrop and Hicks are planning to meet at the Washington County Courthouse to make a payment on Ervin’s taxes.

“We’re just going to go pay off what we can. I know we have enough money to pay the first year off,” Aistrop said.

Hicks said some people who were skeptical of donating online are going to meet at the courthouse and pay cash directly.

As the Johnson City Press reported in March, on average, Americans have drank three gallons of milk less per year since 2010 and per capita milk consumption is down about 11 gallons since 1975. Meanwhile, the U.S. dairy industry is producing about 350 million more gallons of milk each year than the year prior.

Earlier this year, Dean Foods, one of the nation’s largest dairy companies, announced it was terminating contracts with around 100 farmers nationwide, including 11 in East Tennessee.

To contribute or learn more about the GoFundMe page, visit www.gofundme.com/wash-co-for-keith.

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