District 5 candidates seek Wilson County Commission seat

Staff Reports • Jul 13, 2018 at 3:41 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 5

Two candidates qualified to run for the District 5 seat. They are incumbent Commissioner Jerry McFarland and challenger Bill Jones.

Jones is married to Tracy Jones, and they have two sons, 12 and 8 years old, who attend Wilson County Schools. He is a 2003 graduate of Tennessee State University, where he earned a degree in early childhood development. He was a licensed educator with the state for 13 years and worked in Davidson, Sumner and Wilson counties. In 2008, he took over operations and management of his parents’ embroidery business until it sold. He currently works for HCA Physician Services Group in Nashville.

McFarland retired as a colonel after he served in the military for 33 years, both on active duty and in the Tennessee Army National Guard. He also served as the director of civil defense and emergency preparedness, currently TEMA, for the state.  After he retired from the military, McFarland served as the director of Wilson County Emergency Management. He has served as president of the Alvin C. York Foundation, a member of Raise the Gunboats Foundation and chairman of the Wilson County Veteran’s Museum Committee and is the founder of Possomtown Outreach, a food, clothing and toy drive each Christmas to help children who suffer poverty in Appalachia. His wife, Jennifer, and he raise cattle on his family farm in Possomtown on land in the McFarland family for more than 200 years. He has four children and six grandchildren.

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

Jones:As I speak with my friends and neighbors in District 5, many have asked me this exact question. Allow me to take a few moments to explain who I am and how I came to this decision. I was raised by two incredible parents who have always done their best to help and serve others. I have family who served in our Armed Forces from World War II, Korea Conflict and in our current military operations. It is through these examples of serving God, country and community, I came to the idea of public service as my way of giving back to a place I love and its great people. I have had an interest over the last seven years to run for the District 5 seat. Now, in 2018, I firmly believe the Lord has led me, in His perfect timing, to exactly where I am now.

McFarland:My parents taught me by example how important it is to serve our community. I have been in service to it throughout my career in the military to my time in local and state emergency management. I am committed to making Wilson County the best place to live and in which to raise a family.

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

Jones:Two of the most important issues in our county go hand in hand, schools and growth. When we talk about building new schools and the overcrowding situation many are facing, we are doing this because of the growth of our county. As more people move into Wilson County, we will need larger schools and more teachers.

When I mention more teachers, it cannot just be in number but in quality. We need to pay our teachers a salary to recruit and retain the brightest and best teachers in the field. I believe there are outside-the-box ways of addressing this issue. We need to come up with alterative revenue sources to help fund our infrastructure.

McFarland:Our community is experiencing an unprecedented period of growth. While this is exciting, it is also taxing our government services, such as police and emergency response, infrastructure and education. I want to help design and implement a five- and 10-year county growth plan to address these issues and ensure that growth is accompanied by sufficient services to everyone in our community.

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.

Jones:Twenty years sounds like a long time. However, we know as adults it is just a blink of an eye. What our children will need 20 years from now are affordable housing, education and jobs. As our county continues to grow, the cost of housing will continue to rise. In 20 years, many could be priced out of the American dream of home ownership. We need to prepare for this possibility. The other two issues could be solved together. I am a huge proponent of skilled vocational education. In today’s world, not every student is college material or desires to graduate college. Many of these students desire to go straight into the workforce. The jobs available for these students are normally not well paying jobs. This is where the two meet. If elected, I want to try and work with the state of Tennessee to bring a regional training center to Wilson County. I envision this center being a split education facility. Half of the center would focus on our adult population wanting to learn a new skill, and the other half would be made up of local high school students. In my vision, the high school students would do an exploratory their freshmen and sophomore years in high school. During these years, they would look at different types of skilled labor professions while also completing basic math, language and science to graduate high school. Their junior and senior years of high school would be spent focusing on the profession they had chosen. When they graduate the student would be state licensed and/or certified and ready for the workforce. When you have an education system for skilled labor this leads to more industries desiring to locate near the training facility. This would bring more jobs with higher pay to the county. It is a win-win for everyone involved.

McFarland:County infrastructure, the educational system and emergency response – fire, ambulance and law enforcement. It is my goal to help write and implement a five- and 10-year county growth plan to follow to ensure the needs of all these necessary services are met. The public would have full access to the plan to help everyone understand the differing needs of areas of our county. A written plan will enable us to address these needs in a thoughtful and transparent way. As we said in the military, “Plan your work and work your plan.”

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