At a two-hour public forum last night, 17 candidates for public office in Cumberland County spoke their minds and their hearts to a sparsely populated audience at the Cumberland County Playhouse. In addition, the wife of one candidate spoke in his stead; three other candidates submitted written statements read by John Fionte, marketing director of the playhouse, who served as moderator for the event. Ten other candidates were either scheduled to be at a county budget-committee meeting or simply did not attend. Those names marked with an asterisk were scheduled to be at the budget-committee meeting. The event was sponsored by the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce, and was hosted by Chamber President Brad Allamong.
As chair of the Cumberland County Budget Committee, Candidate Foster was running a meeting. His wife, Rebecca, spoke on his behalf. “The role of mayor comes with a lot of responsibility,” she said, adding her husband has a history of service that dates back to 2002, when he was elected to the school board. “It wasn’t about power or influence. It was about serving our community.” She said he’s in his third term as vice chair of the Cumberland County Commission. “We love Cumberland County. This is where we chose to live and raise our family,” she said. “I truly believe Allen is the leader we need to move Cumberland County forward.”
Sandra Lee (Sandy) Davis
Raised in Oak Ridge, Candidate Davis served as a teacher in the Cumberland County school system for 40+ years, starting in 1977 – at a salary below the poverty level. She told 105.7 News she also has a long background in farming – and all it encompasses: land and forest management, bookkeeping and construction. The county’s finances, roads, infrastructure and jobs are areas of concern for her; she said Cumberland County needs a strong financial plan. “When something is broken, then we fix it, rather than looking toward tomorrow,” she said. Davis closed her public statement by saying a vote for her is “a vote for trustworthiness and transparency.”
Cumberland County Commission
Christopher Daniel Coleman
Candidate Coleman, who serves on the Cumberland County Ambulance Service in Lake Tansi and the volunteer fire department, is a past Officer of the Year with the Crossville Police Department. He seeks to build relationships with the business community and entrepreneurs and wants to see improvements in the way the county does business. “I want all department heads to establish capital-improvement plans,” he said, adding many grant opportunities exist locally and at the state level and beyond. “Cumberland County needs someone to secure these funds,” he said.
Candidate Crawford spoke of being a “servant leader” and said in eight years’ time, he built his chiropractic business from one office with two employees to two locations with 19 employees. “I don’t say that to be boastful; I say it to show I have experience.” In speaking of the need to build jobs in the community, he said, “We have to focus on bringing business to this community [and] I will fight to bring jobs to the community.”
Candidate Norris has been in Crossville 29 years and has been with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office since 2004. “I’ve been working for Cumberland County for the past fourteen years,” he said, pointing out how his skills of listening and communicating with people would make him an effective commissioner. “I’d like to see our local dollars stay local,” he said, adding that the EMS, law enforcement, police and rescue squad need equipment and vehicles to do their jobs effectively.
Sue Ann York
Commissioner York said she’s always been interested in what’s going on in Cumberland County. As a commissioner, she said she attends all commission meetings, all committee meetings and all Board of Education meetings. “I feel I need to know what I’m voting on,” she said.
District 2 – Unopposed Candidates
Kyle Davis (did not attend)
Nancy J. Hyder
A lifelong District 2 resident, Commissioner Hyder said, “I try to spend their money like I would spend my own.” She went on to say, “[being] a voice of the people is one of my main priorities.”
Mitchell Jenkins (did not attend)
John Peaslee (provided statement)
Candidate Peaslee submitted a statement. In it, he said, “If elected, my first priority would be to bring more good jobs to Cumberland County, which would go far to solve many of our problems. Folks earning decent wages don’t burglarize homes in order to feed their families… Folks spending their decent wages generate the revenue needed for the county to provide services, protect the public, and fund our schools.”
*Rebecca H. Stone (provided statement)
Commissioner Stone submitted a statement in which she said, “I would like to see the county stay fiscally conservative, maintain the best of Cumberland County’s heritage and continue to move forward on the path of excellence.”
Darrell G. Threet (provided statement)
Candidate Threet submitted a statement in which he said he “wants more transparency in governmental decisions and for the public to understand where their tax money is being spent in relation to revenue, expenses and debt control.”
Gary L. Adams
Candidate Adams has spent 38 years with Cumberland Auto Parts; he serves on the Fair Association and the Ag Advisory Board, as well as the advisory committee for the proposed expo center. “We need better jobs for our college graduates,” he said. “I want to work [to] come up with a formula to attract good-paying jobs [because] the younger generation is our future.”
Candidate Dunn, a retired lieutenant from the Niagara Falls Police Department, said commissioners must be “responsive and answerable to the people they represent.” To that end, he said he supports bringing broadband internet into the furthest reaches of the county, which would aid students in their education as well as attracting more jobs to the area. He stressed the need to be mindful of how county dollars – taxpayer dollars – are spent. He cited the building of the library partially on railroad property and the Crab Orchard school septic project as examples of boondoggles that should have been more carefully overseen. “The project was completed and paid for and it failed to work properly on day one,” he said. “These were reckless mistakes by our elected officials.”
Candidate Franklin, who works for the Board of Education, said she is in favor of “encouraging industry and education to work together to train [prospective] employees.”
David H. Gibson
Commissioner Gibson has spent the past 38 years working with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. He thanked the candidates for coming out to speak about the issues of concern to them and their constituents. “Cumberland County has been good to [me] and to my family,” he said. “I’d like to see Cumberland County get jobs in here.”
Charles Seiber (did not attend)
District 5 – Unopposed Candidates
Jack Davis (did not attend)
Candidate Segar said he’s been closely involved with opposing the Crab Orchard wind turbine effort and over the past two and a half years has been “watching the sausage of legislation being made.” He said the county needs to develop its industry base. “We need jobs that are long term, stable but don’t detract from our rural values,” he said.
First elected to the Cumberland County Commission at the age of 23, Candidate Speich served on the commission until 1994. “My priorities were family, my farm and my job,” he said. He said the county needs – really needs – to attract industry. “We’ve got the largest industrial park permit in the state of Tennessee except one,” he said. After seven years, the site is still undeveloped, growing only sagegrass and pine trees. Another area of concern for Speich is road maintenance. As he’s told his students, “If you don’t learn anything else, buy your gas in Cumberland County ’cause that’s what pays for your roads.”
*Wendell W. Wilson
Better known as Meteorologist Mark with Weather TAP, Candidate Baldwin said his priority is bringing high-speed internet into District 7. That would enable students to enhance their educational horizons with online courses, facilitate telecommuting for rural workers and improve the quality of life for residents. “I will never stand in the way of anything that supports that,” he said. “This is my first step into politics, and it has been quite the experience,” he admitted. Baldwin got the biggest laughs of the evening when he closed with, “Remember – Mark, he’s bald and he wins!”
Candidate Cooper, who has worked for the Cumberland County Board of Education as a Special Education Assistant for 16 years, said, “We know we have a diamond here in Cumberland County. We need to keep this place great.” He stressed the need to keep our taxes as low as possible and generate revenue – and spend it wisely. “I’ve seen things we’ve spent money on that we shouldn’t have,” he said. He also said we need to “promote the county, spotlight it … promote it to [bring] jobs. We need that here in Cumberland County.”
Commissioner Farley, who has spent 22 years working with the Board of Education, is running for re-election. “The reason I’m running again is I left a lot of things undone,” he admitted. “To run for County Commissioner is to serve.”
Michael J. Hamby (did not attend)
Candidate Blalock said when he was turned down for military service, “the lady told me to go home and serve.” And when he figured out what she meant, he did just that. “I love to serve. I don’t want to be a big cog in the wheel. I just want to serve,” he said.
Candidate Holbrook claimed she was “less than pleased” with what she’s seen at the national and state levels in government. “It will come as no surprise that money is tight and no one wants to raise taxes,” she intoned. “Cumberland County’s population has grown but its services have not.”
Darrell Wyatt (did not attend)
District 9 – Unopposed Candidates
Carl S. MacLeod
Retired after 21 years with the U.S. Army, Candidate MacLeod, who volunteers with the Fairfield Glade Police Department, said, “Everyone has a specific civic responsibility and when you can run, you should run.” He concluded his statement with, “I’ll do what’s right and what’s not easy.”
*John L. Patterson, Jr.
After the session, when the candidates went out to the lobby to meet individually with constituents and supporters, attendee Nancy Burns told 105.7 News she thought it was an excellent forum, and a good opportunity to hear the various candidates’ statements – and to get a chance to hear from the two mayoral candidates. “It’s nice to know who you’re voting for,” Burns said. “I want to make sure we pull together as a community, no matter who wins.”
A candidates’ forum for the Board of Education hopefuls will be presented at the Art Circle Public Library, from 5 to 7 this evening. The event is free and open to the public.