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Chamber Survey: Washington County Commission Districts 11-13

Contributed To The Press • Apr 7, 2018 at 2:54 PM

The local Chamber of Commerce has released the results of its survey of candidates in the Washington County Commission races. One seat is available in each of 15 districts.

The early voting period runs April 11-26. The primary is May 1.

Candidates were asked to limit their answers to 50 words or less.

District 11: Jodi Jones is unopposed.

How will you improve the working relationship between Johnson City/Washington County School System?

Jodi Jones: The disparity between County and City Schools concerns me and significantly limits our potential for regional growth. A special task force with both city/county commissions and school boards should be prioritized. Their primary objective should be resolving discrepancies across the board (resources, funding, etc.) using innovation to adapt existing models.

Under what circumstances will you raise property taxes?

Jodi Jones: My top campaign promise is to stay in close community with my constituents. By developing a strong sense of their needs and values, I hope I can always vote in a way that best represents their interests. This is especially true when it comes to raising property taxes.

What is your position on TIF incentives in local development?

Jodi Jones: As a member of the JCDA Board and a near-downtown resident, I know TIF incentives have had a significant impact on revitalizing our City. I am supportive of the incentives and will remain diligent in observing how they are implemented so that the return on investment remains strong.

What is the role of the County Commissioner in the governance of Washington County?

Jodi Jones: S/he should work collegially to execute the business of the County, particularly its budget, so that fiscal responsibility balances with best bets for investment in growth. A County Commission should be in regular contact with County employees, elected officials, the Chamber, and the citizens so that decision making is well-informed.

How will the Commission and the Mayor work with the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Chamber of Commerce?

Jodi Jones: The Commission should work with the Chamber in facilitating growth. The Chamber is a significant resource to the County in that its focus is on the entire region. If leveraged, the Commission-Chamber partnership could increase the sense of a broader regional “community” that is needed for development in Northeast Tennessee.

What is your strategy to enhance economic, community and industrial development in the region?

Jodi Jones: A low tax base, services, and a market attract businesses and further growth. Also, businesses locate to an area like ours because of a sense of community. I would place equal weight on developing infrastructure and leveraging partnerships with regional networks to market a growing “community” in East Tennessee.

Would you maintain or modify the capital improvement plan that is currently in place? Explain.

Jodi Jones: I have been working to educate myself on this complex issue by attending the town hall, and speaking with current/former Commissioners regarding the current plan. I intend to visit our schools and visit with officials so that I can be informed about a best course of action as I begin.

Why are you running for County Commissioner?

Jodi Jones: I have long enjoyed serving my community. I love East Tennessee, and want to contribute to its prosperity and the wellness of its people.

District 12: Robbie Tester is unopposed.

How will you improve the working relationship between Johnson City/Washington County School System?

Robbie Tester: I believe better communication would go a long way, and animosity between the two helps no one. Our focus needs to be improving students’ quality of education. Both commissions should follow the lead of our respective school boards, realizing micromanagement or constantly spending more money is not always the solution.

Under what circumstances will you raise property taxes?

Robbie Tester: After the HUGE 2016 increase, which I strongly opposed, I’m surprised the question isn’t about lowering taxes. Households on a budget must live within their means, distinguish between needs and wants, prioritize, and wait. Government should do the same. Plus, higher taxes drain more money away from the productive economy.

What is your position on TIF incentives in local development?

Robbie Tester: TIF is basically a way of ‘borrowing from the future’ to subsidize the present, placing risk on taxpayers. It allows the government to pick favorites, meddle in the market, not treat all citizens equally, and take from one taxpayer to help another. I do not think we should use it.

What is the role of the County Commissioner in the governance of Washington County?

Robbie Tester: Commissioners serve the People in their district, representing them in the legislative branch of our county government. They make decisions concerning taxes, budgeting, and services provided. Ideally, they should listen to other citizens and work cooperatively with other county personal to provide the best and most efficient government service possible.

How will the Commission and the Mayor work with the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Chamber of Commerce?

Robbie Tester: The Chamber exists to promote business, enhance economic and community development, and help improve the quality of life. Local government can best foster these goals by maintaining an equal playing field for everyone in our economy, providing high quality services, and offering an environment of low taxes, fees, and regulations.

What is your strategy to enhance economic, community and industrial development in the region?

Robbie Tester: I believe the best strategy for government is to avoid interference in the marketplace and let competition work. Government’s role is to provide a simple, stable, inexpensive, and level playing field. It isn’t to pick winners and losers with special deals or incentives, but to ensure equal opportunity for all.

Would you maintain or modify the capital improvement plan that is currently in place? Explain.

Robbie Tester: The CIP is a valuable, long-term, financial planning tool. I think it should be kept by managed very carefully and conservatively. A positive modification I would prefer is to ELIMINATE borrowing. Our current debt stands near $170 million, and this year along $11,8 million is going toward debt payments.

Why are you running for County Commissioner?

Robbie Tester: I’m just a concerned citizen trying to make a difference. I want to encourage everybody to be informed and involved regarding our government because I’m convinced each of us can make a difference. The more citizen input and involvement there is, the better the government serves everyone in the end.

District 13: Gary McAllister is unopposed.

How will you improve the working relationship between Johnson City/Washington County School System?

Gary McAllister: During my last term I helped to establish a committee to work on collaboration between the two systems. With new school board members, I would like to see if we could revitalize this committee and work together on common issues.

Under what circumstances will you raise property taxes?

Gary McAllister: I have learned to never say never because you do not know what the future holds. I would look at raising property taxes as a last resort after we have looked and reviewed all other alternatives.

What is your position on TIF incentives in local development?

Gary McAllister: I think TIF incentives have been invaluable to the revitalization of certain areas of our community especially downtown Johnson City. When using this incentive we need to make sure we use this it wisely.

What is the role of the County Commissioner in the governance of Washington County?

Gary McAllister: The main function of the Commission is to represent it citizens and to look out for its best interests. The role of the Commission is to pay the County’s bill, create, approve a budget, set tax rates, and approve zoning requests.

How will the Commission and the Mayor work with the Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County Chamber of Commerce?

Gary McAllister: The Commission can work with and support the Chamber by promoting Economic Development and focusing on Education. A strong economy and an educated work force will help promote the area.

What is your strategy to enhance economic, community and industrial development in the region?

Gary McAllister: We need to continue to promote education, fund our schools, improve our Industrial parks and enhance our workforce. My support for Aerospace Park is a good example of our Commission working with other to help our region.

Would you maintain or modify the capital improvement plan that is currently in place? Explain.

Gary McAllister: I would continue to maintain the capital improvement plan. I think we need to do a better job in explaining this program and how in the long run it will save all taxpayers money.

Why are you running for County Commissioner?

Gary McAllister: I want to continue to make a difference in “our” Community and make Washington County an even better place to live. I am committed to serving, over the past four years I have served on four committees, two of these as chair and another as the vice chair.

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