SURGOINSVILLE — Four candidates are seeking three available Surgoinsville alderman seats in the Nov. 3 election including incumbent Vice Mayor Bobby Jarnagin; former county school board chairman and current county Clerk of Courts Randy Collier; and two newcomers to local politics — Warren C. Bishop and Rita Thompson.
Current aldermen Kenneth Bass and Dale Byington chose not to seek reelection.
Each candidate was asked to submit responses to the same five questions, and the following are those questions and their responses.
What made you decide to seek this office?
Bishop: So that I could be a voice for the people of community.
Collier: I decided to seek this office because I realize that our country and our community are in turbulent times. Never have people and political parties been so divided. I desire unity. As a practical leader, I know we can all work together for the people.
Jarnagin: I enjoy serving the people of Surgoinsville.
Thompson: To bring much needed change for the better of my small community.
What is your educational and employment background, as well as any previous experience in political office, and other qualifications or experience that might serve you well in this office?
Bishop: I graduated from Northeast State Community College in 1992, I have been in the Emergency Services for 30 years and been with Medical Examiner’s office over 20 years in Hawkins County.
Collier: I attended Walter State Community College. I have 20 plus years in law enforcement followed by 4 years with the public’s defenders office. I am currently Clerk of Courts for Hawkins County. I also served on Hawkins County School Board for 10 years, where I served as chairman of the board. In all the positions I have served I have gained broad knowledge in public service, administrative duties, budget knowledge, and have a good working relationship with community leaders.
Jarnagin: Retired from Holston Mills, business owner, and currently a seasonal worker at the Hawkins County highway department. I have served on various boards and committees over the years for Surgoinsville, having previously served as Alderman and currently Surgoinsville Vice Mayor.
Thompson: I have a high school education. And also have had over 35 years of working with the public in health care and fundraisers for the elderly. I have handled accounts receivable and payable for several large medical groups. Had to maintain a budget for health care. Have been a manager over several employees during these times.
What are the most important issues facing Surgoinsville, and what would be your top priorities if elected?
Bishop: The city has aging equipment that needs to be replaced, roads that are in need of repair and the zip code issue with the west end of the city.
Collier: I feel the top priorities facing Surgoinsville is economic development. We should strive to bring industry into our town. I would also like to make it a priority to expand on the current sewer project to attract new industry. My hope would be to also work with the utility districts and listen to input. I would hope by attracting new industry it would lower the taxpayers’ current utility rates.
Jarnagin: Road projects are our biggest issues currently. I would like to see more commercial development.
Thompson: Our community needs to bring more business to our town and support all local businesses and to build new ones. To want others to want to live here.
What would you like to accomplish on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen over the next four years?
Bishop: The zip code issue because the town of Surgoinsville is losing federal money due to the census count; and road paving.
(Editor’s note: A significant portion of Surgoinsville’s west side has Rogersville’s zip code, which impact’s the town’s demographic statistics and has far reaching economic impacts. The BMA has been trying to fix this problem for more than a decade but efforts are always stalled at the federal level.)
Collier: I would like to evaluate the current services Surgoinsville provides. Look at enhancing services provided to the community and they feel they are getting the most for their tax money. I would like for the board to look at grant funding to provide the children of our community something to do. At this time we have no playgrounds, bike trails, or any activities they can access. They are the future of our town. We owe it to them to seek out opportunities to have a safe place to play.
Jarnagin: I would like to see some road projects and also a Grocery Store and commercial development somewhere on 11-W in Surgoinsville.
Thompson: Would like for our park to expand for the young not just our elderly. To give them a nice place to go play outside.
Are you the best candidate for this office, and if so, why?
Bishop: I will do to the best of ability to represent the citizens of our fine town.
Collier: I feel with my years of public service, I will bring many years of knowledge from all my past years of working and serving Hawkins County. I am committed to public service. I desire transparency in working with the city and the public.
Jarnagin: I feel I work hard for the citizens of Surgoinsville in my current position as Alderman to always keep Surgoinsville moving forward.
Thompson: I am not a politician. I am a resident of a much needed updated system in Surgoinsville. I am Someone with a fresh eyes and new options for our small town. So with all that being said I believe change is needed. That our small towns needs to be up with the times of today not long yesteryear.