Longtime Sullivan County Trustee Frances Harrell is not seeking another four-year term. Five people are seeking the GOP nomination in the party primary. As there are no Democrats or independent candidates seeking the job, the winner of the primary is a shoo-in for victory in August’s general election. The five Republican hopefuls for county trustee are Terri Miller Hurd, Matthew Jerry Johnson, Susan Arnold Ramsey, Angela Taylor and Jack Young.
The job currently pays about $95,000 per year. That’s set to increase by the time the winner takes office on Sept. 1. On July 1, the state-mandated minimum salary for a circuit court clerk in a county the size of Sullivan will increase to $99,133.
The Kingsport Times News asked the five candidates to answer a series of questions with a common deadline and word limit. Their responses are unedited. (The Times News did not receive a photograph from Young.)
Q: What does the trustee do?
Hurd: “The Trustee essentially functions as the “banker” to our County government. There are three basic functions: (1) bill and collect County’s property taxes (2) accurately accounting for and disbursing County funds; and, (3) investing temporarily idle funds. There are other responsibilities such as administering the County’s Property Tax Relief Program.”
Johnson: “The Trustee’s foremost responsibility is being a Public Servant to the people of Sullivan County. In addition, the County Trustee collects all state and county taxes on property; keeps an accurate account of all monies received and disbursements. Furthermore, this position also requires the investment of idle county funds.”
Ramsey: “The Trustee is responsible for Property Tax collection as well as other miscellaneous collections that come into Sullivan County and allocating those collections to respective funds as directed by law and by budget. They manage the cash flow from those collections to meet the disbursements from various departments within the County while maximizing the investments of temporary idle funds.”
Taylor: “The primary responsibility of the Trustee is the collection and proper receipt of property tax payments. In addition, the Trustee is responsible for maintaining the county’s cash flow by accurately apportioning and disbursing funds allocated to various accounts. Lastly, the Trustee will conservatively invest any idle funds.”
Young: “The County Trustee is essentially the county’s treasurer and accountant. The Trustee oversees the billing and collection of property taxes and assures that county funds are in the appropriate accounts in order to pay the county’s bills in a timely manner.”
Q: What personal characteristics and professional experience should Sullivan County's next trustee bring to the office, and what in your own background makes you the best candidate in those two areas?
Hurd: “For the first time in 40 years, Sullivan County is going to have a new Trustee. This necessitates someone with demonstrated leadership to ensure the “changing of the guard” is a smooth transition with passion to lead forward. Transparency, trustworthiness and impeccable integrity are traits indicative of a leader with a servant’s heart, respectful of all. A solid accounting, investment, cash management and technology skill set are paramount for the Trustee. As the County’s “banker”, the Trustee must know how to forecast cash needs to pay bills, provide for operational needs, and ensure against idle cash resulting in increased interest earned. I bring 20+ years in banking experience, many at the senior management level. As SVP Corporate Risk Manager, Controller, Quality Control & Internal Auditor I have managed accounting, investments and cash/treasury management functions and have evaluated those functions for banks from $250M to $15 billion in assets. I have solid experience managing complete departments and teams of auditors, working with people at all levels of an organization, accustomed to negotiating contracts and matters for resolution. As a Certified Internal Auditor and Certified Fraud Examiner I have the knowledge with the experience to successfully lead as Trustee.”
Johnson: “I have the knowledge, skills, abilities, and education that is needed to serve the people and boldly lead this office. I will along with the employees will move the needle in the right direction, and that is forward. I have the private sector experience and education (B.S. Human Resource Management, Tusculum College & A.S. from Northeast State) to lead and effectively manage this office. I bring private sector management and customer service experience to this office. I am currently employed with Resolve Consulting which is an organizational and performance management consulting firm and I am also a Realtor in Kingsport. Furthermore, I have the unique experience of being a Sullivan County Commissioner. During my time as a commissioner I have cultivated rapport with multiple department heads and have firsthand knowledge of how county government works. Moreover, I have also had to make tough public policy decisions based upon principle. My political philosophy is conservative and my voting record over the last 8 years attest to this. I believe it will be amazing what a principled conservative with a proven record can do should I be given the chance to serve you. Principles matter and it does indeed matter who governs.”
Ramsey: “I believe that having a professional, helpful attitude and personality is an important personal characteristic of the next Sullivan County Trustee. It is necessary in the Leadership in the Trustee’s office as well as relating to the people of Sullivan County; the Citizens, other Elected Officials, County Department Heads as well as their employees. The Trustee interacts with all of these people on a daily basis.I have a more detailed inner workings of Sullivan County Government and the people in it than any other candidate challenging for the office. I began working for Sullivan County when I was 19. Working for Sullivan County for the last 34 years has given me an excellent advantage in being able to go to work as the next Trustee on day one. While working 23 years in the Accounts and Budgets department and 7 years as the Financial Officer for the Sheriff (2006-2013), I believe that I have exhibited the professional characteristics needed as well as the financial skills necessary to manage over $200,000,000 annually.”
Taylor: “As Sullivan County Trustee, I will be people oriented with a sincere desire to serve the taxpayers of Sullivan County with integrity and accountability. I have more than 18 years’ experience in county government ranging from budget and grant administration to office management. In addition, my Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies provides me the legal background to scrutinize investment options offered to the county. Further, my experience as Executive Assistant to the County Mayor has provided a daily education and well-rounded view of the operations of county government and its effects on the taxpayers. I feel the combination my skills, integrity, knowledge, and strong work ethic makes me the best candidate for Trustee.”
Young: “Simply put, our next Trustee should be a conservative who is competent in accounting and management. My business background is great preparation. After majoring in biology and earning a Masters in Business Administration with coursework in economics, accounting, and organizational leadership, I’ve worked as a scientist and quality control manager in the pharmaceutical industry for the past two decades. Additionally, I’ve worked in investments and earned Lean Six Sigma certifications, which deal with using data analytics to reduce costs and improve entrepreneurial operations. Outside of my professional life, I’ve put my conservative convictions into action in the community through a variety of boards and organizations, including the Sullivan County Republican Party where I served as Chairman. Since 2013, I’ve served on the Bristol City Council and was elected Mayor for this term. Applying the conservative concept of stewardship to a $100 million budget, property taxes are now lower, we now have $15 million in reserve funds, and Bristol is booming with record retail sales with unemployment down to 3.7%. Additionally, we’ve reduced handgun carry restrictions, and crime has dropped to the lowest levels ever recorded. Freedom works. That’s the philosophy I’ll apply as Trustee.”
Q: Describe your personal credit/financial history: Have you ever filed bankruptcy, been subject to wage garnishment or judgments due to default on a debt, etc.?
Hurd: “Thank you for this question regarding my personal credit as State law requires the Trustee to be bonded. This is necessitated to provide the public with the means to trust their Trustee with their monies – their property taxes. The way a person handles their credit reflects their character. I pay and have always paid my debts timely. My personal credit score is very good further indicative of my resolve to handle my personal finances appropriately. Further, I am and have been bondable throughout my entire working career within the banking industry.”
Johnson: “If you can not manage yourself and your own finances, you don’t have a prayer of effectively managing the county’s. I have excellent credit/financial history. It is simple you do not overextend yourself, you do not spend more than you take in, you must live within your means, and when you have debt you pay it off and pay it on schedule.”
Ramsey: “I have always practiced strong conservative values. I believe in being fiscally responsible and have maintained this concept throughout my life. I have an excellent credit history and I have NO Bankruptcy, Garnishments or Judgements in my financial history.”
Taylor: “My credit score is 800. At no point have I ever had bankruptcies, wage garnishments, judgements or other negative marks against my credit.”
Young: “My wife and I are debt free except for a personal mortgage we have had since 2005. To go otherwise debt free, we followed Dave Ramsey’s financial ideas, which are based on principles of Christian stewardship. I have never filed bankruptcy, I’ve never defaulted on a debt, and we pay cash as we go for everything except our house.”