While Tomita already filed his nominating petition to run for Washington County trustee months ago, the former county commissioner is now contemplating a last-minute run for Washington County mayor.
After picking up the county mayor petition recently, Tomita told the Johnson City Press that he will make a decision on which office to pursue by Thursday, which happens to be the qualifying deadline for candidates.
“It is my intention, presently, to run for trustee, but I will know for sure Thursday at noon,” the current city mayor said.
Tomita said he has been urged to run for county mayor by supporters, and he plans to gauge that support level over the coming days to see if its sufficient enough to enter the race.
“I wanted to have the option to make that decision if it looked like the right thing to do. I’ll be working on that feverishly this week,” said Tomita, who supported Mayor Dan Eldridge during the 2014 election.
If Tomita enters the county mayor’s race, it would make for an interesting Republican primary, as he would likely compete against County Commissioner Joe Grandy and former County Commissioner Mark Ferguson.
Grandy and Ferguson have already filed their nominating petitions to run for mayor, but all May primary candidates have until Feb. 22 to withdraw their name from the ballot.
Even if Tomita remains on the Washington County trustee ballot, he will face off against former state representative Dale Ford and County Commissioner Rick Storey, who chairs the county’s Audit Committee, in the Republican primary.
Tomita and Storey both have extensive banking backgrounds, while Ford has pledged to keep current trustee Monty Treadway’s staff in place if he is elected. Treadway already said he won’t seek re-election in 2018.
“I’ve got a background in banking and investments, and (trustee) is a job that does include investing the idle county funds. I was chairman of the county investment committee. I understand the office. I understand the business end of it, and I think I’m qualified,” said Tomita, who currently works as an account executive at Widener Insurance Agency.
If he wins election as trustee, Tomita said he would keep his seat on the Johnson City Commission for the remaining two months of his term.
“I've spoke with my colleagues on the City Commission and told them what I was doing, and they were supportive of me. There is nothing statutorily preventing me from holding both seats (as Johnson City commissioner and Washington County trustee),” Tomita said.
“Now, of course, I wouldn't do that if there was an extended amount of time, but if you go through the timeline, my City Commission term is up at the end of November ... So there's two months of practical overlap. My colleagues are comfortable with me continuing to serve as mayor for that period of time.”
In addition to being at least 25 years old and a resident of the county for at least one year, state law prevents county mayors from holding any other “public office for profit” during their term.