Lewis would use business experience to help county

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   As a small business owner for over 30 years, John G. Lewis said he knows the meaning of operating efficiency. And he wants to see a similar type of financial management done by the county commission.
   "The county puts too much stock in Nashville. I don't think you can spend your money before you've got it," said Lewis, 61, who is making his second bid to become a county commissioner in the 6th District. "I'm a small businessman, and when you're in a bind and you've got people working for you, it's bad.
   "When the county gets in a bind, instead of looking to Nashville to bail us out, we need to look at providing the basics."
   One of nine children, the outspoken Lewis said he knew how to "make do" with what one had. He felt the county's services could be consolidated to some extent rather than elected officials seeking to enact new taxes on citizens.
   "They say 60 percent of people are working outside the county. You can't put a lot of pressure on the working people," said Lewis. "I think the county has enough money to operate, if they would use it wisely."
   The county also needed to purchase additional land to create new industrial sites and seek out industries that had more staying power with their products and services than previous companies, he said.
   "It's hard to get a company to move into an old building because they usually want a building that will meet their own needs," said Lewis. "There is something wrong when six of 10 people have to go outside the county to get a job.
   "I know everybody wants to make $20-an-hour, but in the future, if we can get an $8- to $10-an-hour job, that'll be a good job." Lewis also said the next county executive would have to work with the commission to provide strong leadership for the county.
   He also called for more accountability of county departments to the commission.
   "If Carter County is losing money, then why is the county losing money? If we have a financial management director, what is the county commission's job?" asked Lewis. "I think the commission should check into things better."
   Lewis also voiced his opposition to county zoning policies in the 6th District and his support for the Watauga Regional Water Authority's project to establish a new water source on the Watauga River.
   However, he said the Authority must exercise responsible management of their funds to make the water project work.
   "If they guarantee all the citizens of Carter County who are without water will have water, it will be good," he said, "but if they take all this money and all these grants and don't provide the water, they are not doing the taxpayers of Carter County right."
   He was also critical of the commission's numerous committee meetings and recommendations that came out of the committees.
   "A lot of times, the whole county court will vote on a (recommendation) without asking any type of question," he said. "What is feasible for one district might not be feasible for the next district."
   Lewis is married to the former Peggy White. The couple have three children.
   A graduate of Hampton High School, Lewis has owned and operated Hampton Tire on Highway 321 for over 30 years. He also served two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict.
   "I don't mean to insult anybody, but I just don't think in my district we have good representation," said Lewis. "I think I can help the people. I wouldn't be much of a candidate if I didn't think I could do that."