District 23 candidates seek Wilson County Commission seat

Staff Reports • Jul 13, 2018 at 2:04 PM

The Aug. 2 Wilson County General Election features 43 total candidates who seek to fill seats on the Wilson County Commission in 18 contested races. 

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:

District 23

Two candidates qualified to run for the District 23 seat. They are incumbent Commissioner Sue Vanatta and challenger Billy King. 

King, 39, is the father of three children who attend school in Wilson County. He is engaged to Bailey Lester from Lebanon. He grew up in Lebanon, attended school and graduated from Lebanon High School. He’s a graduate of Walter State University. From 2004-2014, he served as a deputy at the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office. From 2014-2018, he served as a Lebanon police and Emergency Services Unit officer. He currently works for the Lebanon building inspector’s office. 

Vanatta has four children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She graduated from Jackson County High School and the Institute of Organizational Management in Athens, Georgia. She started her work career in banking, then 17 years in the insurance business and then 23 years as president and CEO of the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce.

What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you? 

King:I choose to run on my own. I love our county and want to be a part of making sure we take proper steps to accommodate the changes and growth so they don’t have negative impacts on our way of life. I want to be someone for my district who the citizens can count on to represent them and know their input will be used in making decisions that affect all of our lives.

Vanatta:In spring 2014, I announced my retirement, effective Dec. 31, 2014, as president and CEO of the Lebanon-Wilson County Chamber of Commerce. Following the announcement, I had family, friends and business associates encourage me to seek the office of county commissioner for District 23 in Wilson County. After careful consideration, I made the decision to announce my candidacy, and I was successful in being elected in August 2014. I said when I was elected, I believe in term limits, and I would run for one more term in 2018. I would say it was a person and an encouraging decision. 

What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?

King:I believe there are many important issues that need to be addressed in our county due to growth and the time in which we live. If I’m elected, I plan to meet with department heads and address needs and improvements needed and hope to work with them to keep improving our county.  

Vanatta:After serving four years as county commissioner, I have learned the importance of all issues in Wilson County government. It is difficult to name on that is more important than another. It takes every department working together to make a successful county. County commissioners have major responsibilities, and it is important to remember they are elected by the people and answer to the citizens of Wilson County. I believe when we ask the citizens their thoughts on issues and we remember we are spending taxpayers’ dollars, we will have a better voice for government. 

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. 

King:We need to focus on schools and education, roadways and development plans and their impact.

Vanatta:In the next 20 years, many challenges will take place. I have lived in Wilson County for 45 years, and it is astounding the changes that have happened. I hope I am here for the next 20 years to hear and see what the children say about the past years. Changes I think that need to be addressed include safety and security for all schools, citizens and visitors; continued education planning from preschool through college and vocational schools; and infrastructure to address transportation, growth and quality of life.

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