The chamber held a meet and greet for the candidates Tuesday afternoon at its downtown office with roughly 40 people in attendance. This was followed by a 70-minute forum in which candidates answered questions on economic development, education and quality of life and gave their thoughts on business incentives and the governor’s education savings account proposal.
Attending Tuesday’s forum was all six candidates running for the three open alderman seats: Chris Bulle, Darrell Duncan, Charles Honaker, Chris Mills, Tommy Olterman and James Phillips.
For the most part, all of the candidates agreed on the use of incentives but believed they should be done on a case-by-case basis. All were in support of improving the condition of Kingsport’s roads, of the work being done at the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, believe Kingsport has a top notch public education system and should continue to invest in amenities such as the Greenbelt and Bays Mountain Park.
As for education savings accounts, only Mills said he would support the governor’s proposal.
Here’s a quick rundown on each candidate and where they come down on other issues:
Chris Bulle — an ETSU graduate who works for Bank of Tennessee and is a member of PEAK (Kingsport’s young professional organization). Bulle said he would like to see more of his peers want to stay in Kingsport and that he’s running for the BMA to help take Kingsport to its next phase of growth.
“I think our government needs more representation from different types of people, different generations, no matter where you live in Kingsport,” Bulle said. “We need to invest in things to where people will want to live here.”
Bulle said he would like to see a task force created to focus on economic development, more people involved in the community and government and for the BMA to consult more with the city’s board of education.
Darrell Duncan — a licensed Realtor, retired Eastman employee and former Kingsport alderman. He currently serves on six community boards and has played Santa for more than 30 years. Duncan said voters should consider him because of his prior experience on the BMA and that he can be of immediate help if elected.
“The responsibility of the city is to create an environment for businesses to locate here,” Duncan said. “In one year I’d like to see more businesses catering to the Town Park Lofts. In five years, we should see more growth around the academic village. We need to continue to support aerospace park and re-establish funding for Move to Kingsport.”
Charles Honaker — owner of Millennium Auto Collision. He is running to draw attention to the blue collar jobs in our community.
“My biggest thing is getting kids straight out of school and into the workforce, with minimal training of less than a year, in order to get a job,” Honaker said. “I want to give my time, common sense and leadership to Kingsport.”
Honaker said his vision is for Kingsport to take the lead from Johnson City and Bristol when it comes to keeping young people in town.
“If we keep our kids here, train them and eventually they’ll open their own businesses that create jobs for themselves and other people,” he said.
Chris Mills — originally from California, he moved to the region in 1987 to attend Milligan College. After spending 20 years in the military, he came back to Kingsport and is currently a maintenance worker at Walmart.
“I’m probably not the best candidate, but what I want to accomplish while on the board would be to ensure we make progress on our potholes, we continue to develop the city where it’s easy to move around and focus on the health care issues of the community,” Mills said. “We need to develop a task force to go outside our region and try and entice businesses to come here and develop an employee base for them to have when they do come here.”
Tommy Olterman — a Kingsport alderman the past four years, Olterman is a former Sullivan County commissioner, a staffer for former Rep. James Quillen, and a retired economic development specialist who worked for the state of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
“I’d like to be an alderman for the simple reason of when I first ran — to represent people who cannot represent themselves,” Olterman said. “And I want to continue the good progress we have in place.”
Olterman said his vision is to maintain the city’s sound, financial status, improve the conditions of Kingsport’s roads and to focus on secondary and higher education programs, especially those at the academic village.
James Phillips — born and raised in Kingsport, Phillips is a small business owner and event organizer. He moved back to Kingsport in 2007, started a business in rental properties and believes the city’s best opportunities are ahead of us.
“I care about Kingsport’s future,” Phillips said. “My family is here, my wife and I are raising a daughter, and I feel like I have the experience to listen and understand what’s important to the citizens and city staff, that I’d be able to help the day I start.”
Phillips said he believes that when businesses receive incentives, they should be required to purchase a percentage of materials locally. Job creation and quality of life projects require a public/private partnership, and more should be done to make the RCAM the premier trade school in the Southeast.