Candiates go to the voters to answer questions

By Thomas Wilson

   Candidates never campaign too often.
   A cross section of men and women running in four county races met citizens at a candidates' forum sponsored by the Elizabethton Area AARP at the First United Methodist Church on Tuesday afternoon.
   Five of the eight candidates vying for the county executive's office discussed their vision as leaders if elected to the county's top governmental office.
   Candidates Stanley Bailey, Dale Fair, Richard Z. Gray, Brad Green and Janet Hart Hyder talked up bettering the county's economic standing, making government accountable and fair, and improving the county school system. Woody Lyons appeared on behalf of candidate Bobby McClain.
   Bailey, a 30-year veteran of the local banking industry, said he wanted all county assets appraised, government waste eliminated and the education system improved.
   Hyder said she wanted to assist the county's unskilled work force through education and job creation and maximize the county's services with available revenues.
   "I want to see our tax dollar stretched as far as it can go for us," she said.
   Fair, vice-president of Citizens Bank in Elizabethton, felt the key to successful economic growth was a unified effort within the county.
   "People want to come here," he said of industries looking to set up shop in Carter County. "We can't put a package on the table unless it is unified."
   Gray, the county's former General Sessions Court judge, said he was less optimistic about the notion of industries eager to enter the county.
   He cited local economic statistics provided to him by East Tennessee State University (ETSU) research officials as "depressing" -- particularly a report that over 60 percent of employed Carter County residents held jobs outside the county.
   "We have to start rebuilding the (job) skills inventory in Carter County," said Gray, who pointed out that Elizabethton ranked as a leading economic force in the region only a few decades ago. "We have, over the years, allowed our skills to drop."
   "Whoever the industrial development agent is, he or she and I will go out and get industries," said Green, who was elected to the county commission's sixth district in 1998. "They're not going to just come to us."
   Register of Deeds candidate and professional land surveyor Paul P. Buck told forum attendees if elected he intended to make the office the standard of superiority for the area.
   Incumbent Johnny L. Holder said his office already set a standard of excellence, with information technology that allowed citizens to access their deeds electronically.
   Tammy L. Eggleston and Dexter Lunceford -- two of four candidates for circuit court clerk -- also attended the forum to talk up their candidacy for the office currently held by incumbent candidate John Paul Mathes.
   Eggleston cited her education in criminal justice at ETSU and her 10 years' experience working as a probation officer and deputy court clerk in Carter County.
   "During my time working within the system, I have been able to observe what does and doesn't work," she said.
   A Tennessee state trooper, Lunceford said his 19 years in law enforcement had given him an opportunity to know the area's court system "inside and out."
   Lunceford also offered his advice to AARP members about voting for candidates in all county races.
   "Carter County's reputation has a lot to do with industrial recruitment," said Lunceford. "The people you elect represent you in Nashville and have a great deal to do with your representation in industrial recruitment."
   The forum was the first event of its kind held by the local AARP chapter, said Peter Voigt, the chapter's program chairman.
   "It's my thought that a lot of people don't know their candidates, and what better way to get to know them than to meet them," said Voigt. "You have to be an educated voter or you can't complain."