McClain sees jobs, small tax base as biggest issues

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

   Bob McClain understands business. After all, he has run his own, McClain's Pest Control, for 20 years. Dealing with people and the problems associated with operating a business "helps me better understand the problems we're facing in the county," he said.
   Serving on the county school board for the last six years also has given him experience in dealing with public finance.
   The most important issue facing the county, in McClain's view, is jobs. "There are just so many people that are out of work or are working in Johnson City, Bristol and other places.
   "I've lived and worked here all of my life. I go to church at Hampton Christian Church and we have people from Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. The first thing they want to do when they retire is move here to Carter County, so people can't tell me that we don't have something to offer here that industry is looking for."
   McClain said that when he first began his business people told him he couldn't do it, "that some of the bigger companies would run me out of business. But I did. And that's what I'm saying about Carter County. You give me a good product -- and I think Carter County is a very good product -- and Bob McClain can sell it to the industry people that are looking to locate here. Only industry can solve our revenue problem."
   Carter County's small tax base is the biggest financial challenge, he said. "It is my understanding that the industrial parks are full. We don't have any more land available. The county is going to have to look for land to purchase to make sure we have the infrastructure -- sewer and water -- there for new businesses that want to locate in our area.
   "I know people are going to say, 'Well, we have got all of these empty buildings ...' and of course we're going to definitely try first to get people located in those. But most businesses that want to locate here want buildings to their specifications, so we've got to provide places for industry."
   Many county residents are concerned about zoning. McClain said, "I understand that people have the right to use their property as they prefer. But I also understand that people don't want their neighbors to do things to depreciate their property values. I thought I understood the zoning laws until I talked to the people of our county and some government officials," he said.
   "I would like to study in-depth the county's zoning law, looking at the positives and negatives, and then recommend to commissioners what I think needs to be done." In turn, he said, they can pass it on to the people in their districts, "because ultimately, it's their decision."
   McClain said he would definitely support a new jail facility if the money was available, "but with the financial situation that our county and the state is facing, I don't see this as something that we're going to be able to do in the near future."
   The most important quality for a county executive, according to McClain, is accessibility: "Someone people can sit down with and talk to and tell them the issues that are facing them.
   "I've talked to people all my life. I don't think I'm better than anybody else. I'm just Bob McClain, an old country boy. I want them to know that Bobby McClain is somebody they can trust and believe when I tell them something. My office will always be open to anyone," he said.
   McClain believes hiring a new financial director could be a good move for the county. "If we have all of the budgets under one roof, we can keep a closer tab on them."
   The financial director "is probably going to be my right-hand person to keep me informed of the budget issues that we're facing. I think it's going to free up the county executive so that he can be more involved in industrial recruitment."
   McClain said he doesn't have all the answers to the county's problems, "but I know that together we can make great improvements by communicating and listening to all the people of our county."