Cox ready for one of 'most important elections in city's history'

By Thomas Wilson

   A city administrator and a county legislator.
   Those are two titles Sidney Cox has held during his career in Elizabethton and Carter County. He is now seeking to bring that expertise back to Elizabethton as a member of the City Council.
   "I've been involved in local government for over 18 years and I want to stay involved," said Cox, 40, who is one of eight candidates running for four Council seats. "I think it is important as a citizen of the community that if you have the experience and qualifications to serve and have the time to serve, you should step up to the plate and do that."
   Elizabethton needs ample community involvement and more people active in the process of local government, said Cox.
   Cox served as city finance director from 1991 to December 2000. He worked for Sullivan County government from 1984 to 1991. He served on the Carter County Commission from 1998 to 2002 when he lost a re-election bid in August.
   He called the 2002 city election "one of the most important elections to come along in the city's history.
   "I feel like, from what I am hearing in the community, that there are some outside individual special interests that are attempting to influence the city for their own gain," said Cox.
   "I just feel like we have candidates and people serving in the capacity of city council that are entrusted with ultimately serving the people's best interests in general and not from an individual standpoint."
   One of the major issues facing the city was the city's budget, he said.
   City administrators reduced the city's 2002-2003 budget by 13 percent overall and cut the water and sewer budget by over 30 percent.
   The state of Tennessee's revenue woes had trickled down to cities and counties across the state, he added. The city's best short-term option revolved around enhancing the existing revenue streams with the city's existing revenue base.
   "The recent action by the legislature has put a Band-Aid on the problem," said Cox. "So much of what the city does and can do from a revenue perspective is dictated by the state.
   "If there is no reform, it forces cities to be much more creative and really to survive and to even expand under the existing revenue system.
   "We are going to have to have new developments of some sort, be they residential development or commercial development, or small to medium sized industrial developments," he added.
   Cox said Elizabethton city administration had done an excellent job administering the affairs of the city. A lot of the way the administration reacts and manages the city is dictated by the policy set by the council, he said.
   Economic development is a very competitive animal in itself, particularly challenging for small communities, said Cox.
   "The first thing we need to do is position ourselves to handle that kind of development," said Cox. "From the industrial development standpoint, the city and county together need to find some land to develop within the city and county. We are very squeezed for available space to attract that kind of development."
   Cox said to bolster commercial and residential development, city leaders need to improve on the things on the table right now.
   "A water source has been a big issue and that issue is not going to go away," he said. "We have an excellent education system, and we need to make sure we continue to provide for those services conducive to development."
   The Watauga Regional Water Authority's mission to create a regional water source for the city and county by tapping the Watauga River should create a suitable water supply for the city and the county's utility district, said Cox.
   The city's recent annexations of property in west Carter County has brought in new properties and hundreds of county residents into Elizabethton's corporate boundaries.
   Cox pointed out that police service was being provided in the Milligan area and the city already provided water services in many areas of West Carter County. Extending sewer services will be a major undertaking in the future, according to Cox.
   "With the most recent changes to annexation laws and urban growth boundaries, there is more emphasis placed on the city being specific with those services," said Cox of annexation.
   The city's decision to locate a fire station strategically near the Happy Valley area in 1993 had proven to be a wise move given the city's growth westward.
   The future development of Interstate 26 also gave long-range planning for infrastructure and upgrading city streets. Those things are going to take time to brings things up to a standard the citizens expect.
   A graduate of Elizabethton High School, Cox holds a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in Accounting from East Tennessee State University. He now works in the private sector as a financial advisor for AIG Valice.
   Cox said his experience as both a government administrator as former city finance director and as a legislator with the county commission gave him a substantial edge over the other candidates.
   "That gives me some unique qualifications and experiences to understand the workings and the services provided by local government," Cox said.