Kingsport BMA incumbents split on re-election plans

Matthew Lane • Feb 4, 2007 at 10:39 AM

KINGSPORT - One is running, another is not and a third has yet to make up his mind.

These are the views of three Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen incumbents regarding the upcoming May city election.

This election cycle, three alderman seats and the mayor's position are up for grabs. As of Friday, five people had picked up petitions to run for alderman, and two had returned them. Mayor Dennis Phillips has picked up, but not returned, his petition to seek re-election.

Vice Mayor Larry Munsey, who has served eight years on the BMA, is seeking re-election. Alderman Ken Maness, appointed to the BMA last year to replace Hoyt Denton, has said he does not intend to run again. Alderman Ken Marsh, who has also served eight years on the BMA, said he has not made up his mind about attempting a third term on the board.

Initially, Munsey said he was inclined not to run, but has since changed his mind. Munsey attributes his change of mind to the recent hiring of City Manager John Campbell and the work Campbell has done over the past four months.

"I think he brings a lot of great ideas, a lot of new ways of thinking, and so I look forward to working with John. We need to continue on the path that we're on, and one of the ways I think I can help to ensure we do that is to seek re-election," Munsey said. "We've got a lot of good things going on in the city right now. I want to see us continue what we've started, and I think we're making great progress, so I want to be a part of that."

Marsh said in December he would wait until after the first of the year before making up his mind to run for re-election. With just under two weeks until the deadline, Marsh said last week he still has not made a firm decision.

"I'm really on the fence," Marsh said. "I can make a case either way, and a lot of people have urged me to run. But let's face it, people who don't want you to run aren't going to tell you to not run."

Marsh said he has been serving as alderman for nearly eight years, and he's "a little bit tired."

"I love Kingsport, and I want the very best for it. I've worked real hard these past eight years to get the city's finances in good shape, and they're in great shape," Marsh said. "It worries me that we seem to be aimed at trying to drive ourselves into deep debt again.

"That's fine as long as everything's good, but the economy doesn't stay good forever. It cycles and we'll be back in the tough financial straits again if indeed we peg our debt all the way out."

Four political newcomers have also picked up petitions to run for alderman - Ray Cain, Carl Hale, Bill Hillman and Richard Samples.

Cain, 53, worked 22 years with Oakwood Markets and now works at Downtown Flowers. Cain was born in Kingsport and graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1971. His wife works in the Kingsport Chancery Court office.

Cain filed his petition last month.

Hale, 53, has yet to file his petition but said he does intend to file. Hale was born in Virginia and raised in Kingsport, graduating from Dobyns-Bennett High School and lived in Morristown for many years.

Hale has worked a variety of jobs over the years, including construction and factory work. He is now disabled.

"To get a different voice in the things going on in Kingsport," is the reason Hale, who has never run for office before, said he is running.

"This is the first step for me, and I don't know if it will work or not. I'm just trying to do something positive."

Hillman, 55, has worked for Weyerhaeuser for 34 years. He said he feels like he represents the average citizen in Kingsport.

"I more or less felt an obligation to get involved," Hillman said.

Some issues in the city disturb Hillman, he said, such as recent company losses and the increased drug use among the populace. Hillman said he thinks Kingsport is in the doldrums and not really headed in any particular direction.

"I would like to see more development at Bays Mountain Park. I think we have a national treasure, and I'd like to see it maybe expanded and more of a tourism draw," Hillman said. "And I think our city employees - the police and fire and teachers - need more attention as far as pay goes."

Hillman too has never run for city office, nor served on any boards or commissions.

"I'm a greenhorn, and want this to be a learning process. At the same time I feel like I've got some pretty good ideas too," Hillman said.

Samples, 62, is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. Samples left the military in 1984 and taught at a Georgia high school for seven years before returning to the Model City.

"My health got to the point where it was either keep teaching and die or give up teaching, come home and settle down," Samples said.

Samples, now disabled, serves as secretary of the veterans organization working with Kingsport Tomorrow to build a new veterans memorial for the Model City.

"I finally figured out you can't make changes if you're on the outside. You've got to be on the inside to make changes, and I got tired of complaining about something I couldn't do anything about," Samples said.

There are several issues facing Kingsport that Samples said he is interested in looking into, including the regional sales tax and allowing collective bargaining for all city employees.

"I'm a firm believer that (the regional sales tax) should be given back to the people, and if the mayor wants to use it for something else he needs to go back to the people and ask for another one," Samples said. "I believe that city employees should be treated fairly and with respect, and I think they should be allowed collective bargaining.

"How do we justify allowing teachers to have collective bargaining and we don't allow other city employees to have the same right?"

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