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Voters oust Paduch, Mohon from Johnson City Commission

COREY SHOUN • Apr 24, 2007 at 11:24 AM

JOHNSON CITY - Two incumbent Johnson City commissioners with 20 years combined experience on the panel will not return, as city voters Tuesday overwhelmingly chose Phil Roe, Jeff Banyas and Marcy Walker to serve.

For the first time in 12 years, Pete Paduch will not be a member of the commission, and for the first time in eight years, Ricky Mohon will not return.

When all was said and done, Roe led the pack, earning 26.91 percent of the votes, while newcomer Banyas followed closely with 26.78 percent. Walker, the only other candidate to surpass the 20 percent mark, raked in 22.29 percent of the votes.

Both Paduch and Mohon earned just over 9 percent of votes, while Roger Bryant recorded about 3 percent and William H. Bud Hill Jr. brought in a little more than 2 percent.

In all, nearly 8,500 city residents came out to cast their ballots in Tuesday's election, a voter turnout rate of just under 26 percent.

Roe, currently serving as the city's vice mayor, is likely to become mayor on May 17. Roe also collected the most votes four years ago.

"It shows that the people of Johnson City will reward hard work, but then you have to re-earn it too," Roe said. "I think people see me as being independently minded, but I also always check my personal feelings at the door."

The decision to run again, after he fell short last year in a bid to serve East Tennesseans as congressman from the 1st District, came because of work left undone, Roe said.

"We're in good shape right now in Johnson City, but there is a lot left to do," Roe said. "We've got some major road problems that we need to be working on each year, we've got a lot of work to do with Freedom Hall, and there are some school bonds issues we are going to need to work on with a new school board.

"I'll just continue to be as conservative as I have been."

Of his fellow incumbents who did not succeed in getting re-elected, Roe said, "Johnson City was just ready for a change, and it happens in elections all the time. We'll just thank commissioners Paduch and Mohon for their service and move on."

Walker, who has just completed eight years on the Board of Education, was ecstatic when the votes were in.

"It's just amazing. I'm really excited," Walker said. "There is just so much we can accomplish. ... We now have five people that will be able to sit down and come up with a true vision for the future of Johnson City."

Much of Walker's campaign focused on bringing a more respectful approach to the commission.

"I think people are just tired of being embarrassed by what goes on (during commission meetings) on Thursday night," Walker said. "With the commission you have now, we aren't going to always agree, but I think the vision is ultimately going to be the same."

Much like Walker, Banyas, currently president of the Johnson City Sports Foundation and chairman of the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, seems energized to help lead the city for the next four years.

"I'm very happy. I am very humbled and very honored that the people of Johnson City elected me," Banyas said.

He agreed with Roe and Walker in their assessment of the winning group.

Banyas said he believes the new group of city commissioners will be a "positive" unit that will "work together" as well as with city residents to "get a lot of stuff done."

"I think you're going to see a whole new commission."

The new commissioners will be inaugurated on May 7 and will join Steve Darden, currently serving as mayor, and Jane Myron on the panel. Had he been successful, Paduch would have become the first commissioner to serve four consecutive terms.

As is often the case, early voting numbers were indicative of the final outcome.

A total of 3,286 voters either showed up early or cast an absentee ballot. Of those, more than 27 percent cast a vote for Banyas and Roe, while Walker collected more than 22 percent.

Both Paduch and Mohon collected just over 8.5 percent of the early vote. Bryant and Hill, who both failed to post significant totals in the election two years ago, finished with 3 percent or less in early voting.

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