Commissioners were uncontested for seven of the 25 total seats on the commission. They are Bobby Franklin in District 3, Terry Scruggs in District 7, Sara Patton in District 9, John Gentry in District 11, Terry Ashe in District 12, Gary Keith in District 17 and William Glover in District 19. Eight commissioners opted not to seek re-election.
The Democrat sent questionnaires to each commission candidate in the contested races, along with requests for biographical information. The following are the candidates’ answers and information about them:
Two candidates qualified to run for the District 16 seat. They are incumbent Commissioner Diane Weathers and challenger Todd Almond.
Almond is married to his wife, Kimberly, and he has two sons, Graham, who recently graduated from the University of Arkansas, and Jacob, who attends West Wilson Middle School. Almond attended the University of South Dakota before he served in the U.S. Navy from 1986-92. He has worked in various hardware and software engineering, program management and product development roles for several companies in the transportation Industry. He is currently vice president of product development for Nashville-based TransCore.
Weathers and her husband, Don, have been married for 36 years, and she has one son. They are lifelong members of Center Chapel Church of Christ. She is a Mt. Juliet High School graduate and attended Middle Tennessee State University. She worked at the Federal Reserve Bank in Nashville for eight years and Textron Aerostructures in Nashville for six years.
What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you?
Almond:It was personal initiative, though my friends and family have certainly given me plenty of encouragement to get involved. I love my community and want to see it go from good to great.
Weathers:I have a vested interest in District 16 as my family has lived here since the 1790s and has a long history of public service. My son, his wife and my granddaughter, including the majority of my immediate family, live in this district, and I want to make sure that it remains a great place to live for decades to come. I have seen growth take its toll on this district, and I want to make sure that the citizens who live here are properly represented in county governance. I have served as the commissioner for District 16 for the past four years and have spent several hours each day addressing the many issues that the county faces as a result of the significant growth we are experiencing. Fortunately, I have the time to dedicate to the people of the district and will work to make sure their wants and needs are addressed by the full county commission. I have served the county in several capacities in the last 20 years, including the Library Board, the Board of Zoning Appeals, Finance Committee and Public Works, Rules and Ethics committees, and the Planning Commission, of which I am currently vice chair. I have established relationships with many people in county government that will allow me to continue to get things done if I am re-elected. As far as what prompted me to run for re-election, it is a combination of a personal desire to continue to serve on the county commission and because I have been encouraged by many of the people who live in District 16. I am passionate about our quality of life and will work as needed to make sure we protect it. I am a very conservative person and will work hard to avoid increasing taxes in the future. I realize that growth is imminent and that brings on the need to expand services such as schools, the sheriff’s department, emergency services and especially infrastructure, but we must be smart about how we respond to the need to spend taxpayer dollars. We must get the biggest bang for every dollar spent, and I have developed a thorough understanding of how to do that. I want what is best for those who live here, and I have the time and knowledge to represent them in commission meetings.
What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?
Almond:The business of the county has been conducted in a certain way for many years. I don’t mean that comment as a criticism, but growth and change are happening before our very eyes, and we are not managing this change well. Schools and transportation infrastructure trail development, and we are constantly playing from behind. We need leadership that is forward thinking, and I believe I am that person.
Weathers:The most important issue is to make sure the voices of the people of District 16 are heard in all county commission and committee meetings and working with all government officials as needed to ensure their wants and needs are known. I do my best to answer all phone calls and emails to ensure I understand what my constituents need and do my best to help them. The second important issue is dealing with all the challenges that are driven by the tremendous growth in District 16. One of the biggest challenges is roads and infrastructure. The major roads in the District 16 – Mt. Juliet Road and Central Pike – are owned and maintained by the state highway department and need immediate attention. I have been pushing our legislators and senators to give it their top priority to alleviate the horrendous traffic we experience on a daily basis. I pushed for three years to get something done at Adams Lane and Central Pike and finally got the four-way stop that greatly improved a terrible and dangerous intersection. The third and equally important issue is to make sure the county government is fiscally responsible with your tax dollars and to hold the many departments accountable and to be mindful of where the money comes from while planning expenditures. I attend committee meetings, especially the ones that deal with financial management of the county, to keep up with the ongoing activities of the county so I can base my votes on knowledge and understanding, not what someone has told me. With that said, it is important for me to maintain the lifestyle we have and that will take a lot of work, which I am prepared to do.
Think of our county 20 years from now. Name three things that must be addressed now to make it better for the children of this county.
Almond:First, our children and grandchildren deserve the best educators and facilities that can be provided, and our already good schools need the resources to become great schools. Second, our transportation infrastructure needs to pace our growth. If the first two objectives are met, the third objective will be inevitable, that being Wilson County would then attract businesses and professional jobs that make it far more likely that our children will remain here to raise their own families.
Weathers:The county commission has to support education of our children and fund the needs to help the school system become one of the best systems in the country to be able to recruit a broad range of industries, including white-collar jobs, high-tech manufacturing and other high-paying jobs so our children will have a chance to develop a higher standard of living than we currently have. Part of this initiative is to have a very strong library system throughout the county to provide services to parents and children to support the education system, which I have worked diligently on for the past 20 years. We have to come together as a county, both the cities and the various agencies – schools, sheriff, WEMA, roads and others – and develop a long-range plan to ensure the growth we implement is what we want it to be, not what it turns out to be. This is crucial for both managing growth and providing the residents of Wilson County a roadmap of what is going to be done and how we will get there as a county. Get busy now recruiting more retail and building a tax base that is not totally dependent on property taxes for the majority of funding the anticipated growth. Along with recruiting, the retail should be an initiative to recruit white-collar and high-tech manufacturing companies to relocate to Wilson County. This will not be easy to do, but needs to be started now for this to come to fruition within the next 10-20 years.
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