Colbaugh sets sights on self-sufficiency for county

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   A paramedic for Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Medical Service, Kevin Colbaugh believes it is his compassion, his desire and love for Carter County that makes him the right candidate for county executive.
   "I've been here all my life and I know, being a working man myself, what people go through each day. I'm just an old country boy and I want to see what's best for Carter County as a whole. I think that with my personality and the type of individual I am, I can bring that type of unity in our local government."
   Colbaugh believes Carter County needs to focus on tourism and industry to bring in more jobs. "My vision is if we can build up our tourism and our industry, and we get a good base under us, then our education is going to be able to prosper. And if our education prospers, then our services, such as fire, EMS and law enforcement can prosper. People are happy, they get money in their pockets, so therefore they spend money, which goes back into our industry to help support them. So it's a self-sufficient type of thing."
   The biggest financial challenge he sees is the educational system. "Our schools need to be upgraded. It takes money to do that. We've got to generate some revenue in order to make this work.
   "I think we've got to get a good foundation to build from. It's hard to make something prosper if you've not got a good foundation under it."
   Colbaugh said he would like to see a fair school system. "Whether a kid goes to Unaka, Cloudland or Little Milligan, they ought to have the same opportunities as whether they're at Happy Valley, Elizabethton or wherever it may be."
   Carter County's zoning ordinance is backed by good intentions, Colbaugh believes, but he doesn't think countywide zoning is realistic. "If you live in a nice neighborhood, you don't want somebody that really doesn't take care of their place living next door to you. I can understand and see that.
   "People that really want that kind of a neat-type setting should have an opportunity to live in zoned areas, and the people that have got their own land can be how they want to be," he said. "The way I look at it: 'This is my land; I pay taxes for it. Why can't I live on my land the way I want to?' "
   In 1991 Colbaugh began a law enforcement career with Tennessee Department of Correction, working in the penal system for a couple of years. "One of the things I've noticed is that as time goes on, you're going to need bigger space for inmates. The jail that we have now, it's served it's purpose over the years and it's been a good place. But in a measure of time, it's got to get larger," he said.
   The most important quality of a county executive, Colbaugh believes, is a good personality. "The reason is if you have a good personality and you're a good people-person, you can work with anybody. If you're not able to get along and work with anyone, then I don't think the system can work or the local government can work, because in my opinion, one man or one woman does not hold the answer for the county's problems."
   That comes from team effort, he said. "When a football team wins a game, it's not because of the quarterback. He may have done well, but if it wasn't for everybody else out there doing their job, they don't win. It takes that team effort to do that."
   Colbaugh said that if the county puts money into hiring a full-time finance director, he would hope that it would increase efficiency and accountability in county government. "It's good to get advice on anything and people have to be open-minded to different views and opinions," he said, "but it's still going to take a team effort to work."
   Colbaugh said the first thing he would like to do as county executive is sit down with the finance director, "lay everything out on the table, see what we've got, see what is needed, find out the reality of the situation and go from there. It's just going to take some time and planning," he said.