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Sullivan County mayoral candidates discuss top priorities

April 14th, 2014 10:52 pm by J. H. Osborne

Sullivan County mayoral candidates discuss top priorities

Steve Godsey, left, and Richard Venable

BLOUNTVILLE — The Kingsport Times-News submitted five questions to Steve Godsey and Richard Venable, the two candidates for Sullivan County mayor.

Below are each candidate's unedited answers, which the Times-News asked be limited to 200 words each.

Godsey and Venable are expected to square off in a public forum Tuesday night in Bristol, and timesnews.net plans to live stream that event online, beginning at 6 p.m.

The election will be decided during the Republican party primary on May 6. Early voting begins Wednesday in Blountville and will expand to locations in Kingsport and Bristol on April 24.

What is the most important issue facing Sullivan County, and what will you do to address it over the next four years?

Godsey: "Like the adverse effects of the Federal Government that have hurt the job market all over the nation, Sullivan County has also suffered. We have, during my service time, been able to bring in some new employment opportunities. One of my goals is to seek even more employers to come into our area and make companies aware that Sullivan County is a "business friendly" area, and also strive to keep taxes to a minimum. We will work with them to get established here."

Venable: "Restoring faith in local government and regaining public confidence. Strong communities have strong leadership. Unfortunately, controversy and chaos have become the rule of the day in Blountville. With faith restored, we can move ahead on improving critical infrastructure, continuing successful job creation efforts and providing new tools to improve workforce skills. A trusted person at the head of Sullivan County government is essential if Sullivan County is going to compete in the years ahead."

Should state law prohibit annexation without referendum? What impact, if any, do you think such a prohibition would have on future commercial development?

Godsey: "I personally feel that people choose where they live for a reason. Folks choose to live in the city for convenience, also for paid fire and police protection. Others choose to live in the rural areas for more privacy and do not concern themselves with those conveniences — and are willing to travel into the city for shopping and entertainments. I do not feel that these individuals should be forced to become a resident within an area they have not chosen unless they have a say in the decision. I do not see any reason why this would have an impact on future commercial development since most developments occur within the city limits."

Venable: "Private property rights are the foundation of a free society. As a state Representative, I carried legislation that would end forced annexation, although legislative leadership at the time was opposed to it. So my record on that aspect is clear: I do believe homeowners should have a say in what happens with their property. At the same time, I do know after many years in state and local government, we must have strong Cities and Counties with the ability to provide needed services to the areas that require them. Urban areas need and require urban services for the public good. That's why it is critical to have trusted leadership in Blountville that can balance competing agendas and bring people together to reach a conclusion that is in the best interest of the entire county."

What do you see as the primary role of the county mayor? What makes you the best person to fill that role?

Godsey: "A primary role of the County Mayor is to at all times, keep a listening ear and eyes open to departments that work under him, maintain contact with the surrounding cities and also the State in order to foster a friendly relationship with government officials that will benefit operations of the County Government. The County Mayor should be familiar with State laws and have a working relationship with lawmakers and other officials in Nashville who can lend a helping hand in furthering the success of the county. The Mayor should always be ready to work with any projects or ideas that will further the economic success of the area. The office of the County Mayor should consistently be open to citizens because this is a service job for their benefit. The fact that I spent many years as a sales manager for three large companies, owned several small businesses, spent 10 years in the State Legislature, eight years and am presently the County Mayor and am even now working on many new projects that I feel I need to continue to be involved with so they will develop into job opportunities for Sullivan County."

Venable: "In many ways it is a classic CEO situation. We need a mayor who can focus the best that the community, commission and constitutional office holders have to offer. We also need a mayor who holds sufficient respect from the legislative body and office holders that a course can be charted amid difficult decisions, without devolving into disarray amid varying view points. I have a proven track record in guiding the Commission, navigating the halls of authority and finding common sense solutions within budgetary constraints that moves Sullivan County forward for the greater good. It is critical to have a County Mayor to hold this kind of support to set the tone for the future."

 How will you improve Sullivan County's relationships with its municipalities?

Godsey: "We, happily, at this time enjoy an excellent relationship with the surrounding cities and small communities. It is important to continue meeting with them on a regular basis, as I do now, to troubleshoot for problems, uphold their efforts toward success, and enlist their ideas for upcoming needs and projects.

Venable: "The hallmark of my 20 plus years in public life is building relationships. My tenure has never been smudged by divisive controversy. Whether forging a countywide economic development partnership with a singular goal or bringing together multiple cities and counties together in agreement to attract a major new job creator, I have demonstrated the ability to cut across political boundaries to forge consensus and accomplish major goals."

 If money were not an object, what would be your top priority project for county government to undertake?

Godsey: "One endeavor would be to have land and buildings prepared and ready to set up for any businesses that would be entertaining the idea of bringing jobs to Sullivan County. The added revenue and jobs would benefit our schools and surrounding business owners. It would be great to have the revenue to advertise to a greater degree the many benefits, beauty, and safety of our region which would appeal to those looking for a good location for families and businesses. Our campgrounds, local entertainments, shopping opportunities, churches, sports activities, and regional festivals are amazing, and it would be great to have advertising ability that would invite more people into Sullivan County. A large number of visitors in the last several years have decided after spending time here to actually relocate to this area."

Venable: "Creating a competitive community that is ready for job creation with fully prepared sites for industry, top-notch infrastructure, a well-trained workforce and a prepared, willing government that is set to partner with existing and new industry. For Sullivan County, I think part of that package should include an industrial "mega site" such as those the state has underwritten in other areas of the state and which have been used to successfully recruit major new employers, including Volkswagen in Chattanooga. It's our turn in Sullivan County. To get where I hear the voters say they want Sullivan County to be, we must build superior K-12 education systems, encourage quality residential areas, ensure first class health care systems amid challenging times, continue developing excellent commercial amenities, and above all else, create new, high-quality jobs." 

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