ROGERSVILLE — With contested elections in every Hawkins County city Tuesday, the big winner on Election Day was liquor, which went four-for-four in its municipal referendums.
Rogersville voters approved liquor by the drink by a narrow seven-vote margin, 708 to 701.
Rogersville also approved a referendum allowing package stores by a vote of 707 to 663.
Mount Carmel’s liquor by the drink referendum was approved with 1,176 in favor and 962 opposed while Church Hill approved its liquor by the drink referendum with 1,348 for and 1,113 against.
The movement to put the issue of liquor by the drink to referendums was actually begun by Hawkins County Commissioner John Metz, who started a petition for the county as a whole. When it was discovered that Mount Carmel and Church Hill have populations that are too large to be included in the county referendum, residents of those cities started their own petitions as well.
Although Rogersville would have been included in the county referendum, residents there started their own independent referendum petitions as a backup plan. For Rogersville’s supporters of liquor by the drink and package stores, that turned out to be the right move because the original county petition failed to get enough signatures to make it on the ballot.
Metz, who resides inside the Rogersville city limits, wouldn’t divulge Tuesday night how he voted on the liquor referendums. He did say, however that he’s glad the decision was made by the voters.
“People made the decision, and that’s what it’s all about,” Metz said. “That’s why I started my petition, to give the voters the chance to officially post their opinion. I don’t think you can go wrong when the people have the choice.”
Metz’s original petition didn’t include package stores, and he said he has faith in Rogersville leaders to incorporate those types of businesses into the city responsibly.
The question now remains whether chain restaurants that serve wine and cocktails can be attracted to Rogersville, Mount Carmel and Church Hill and if those cities have the demographics and traffic volume to be considered by developers of that type of business.
Metz owns businesses in Rogersville. He said that although the demographics wouldn’t support many of Rogersville’s retail businesses on paper, those businesses still prosper.
Recruitment of sales tax revenue-generating restaurants is expected to become a high priority among city and county leaders.
“We’re going to have an Industrial Development Board meeting toward the end of this month and try to come up with a game plan,” Metz said. “I think we’re really going to start focusing on tourism and retiree recruitment. Since I was the age of my kids, I’ve always heard if we had liquor by the drink it would make a difference. Well, the people have made that decision to put that one to bed and move on to something else.”
Other Hawkins County races decided Tuesday included:
• Two seats on the Hawkins County Commission, District 2, which were filled by Jeff Barrett (1,510) and Fred Castle (1,474). Unsuccessful candidates included Dustin Smith (804), Fred “Daris” Horne (690), and Jeret L. Ratliff (308).
• Three alderman seats on the Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which were won by incumbent Marc Borghetti (550), incumbent Joe McLain (495), and Alex Dykes (383). The lone unsuccessful candidate was Landon Pruitt (325).
• Two seats on the Rogersville City School Board of Education, which were won by incumbent Todd Biggs (1,072), and incumbent Reed Matney (1,056). The lone unsuccessful candidate was Dr. Mahima Kundu (183).
• The Bulls Gap mayoral seat, which was won by Michael Solomon (215) over Daniel Parrott (47).
• Four Bulls Gap BMA seats, which were won by Betsy Shipley (206), Jimmy Sexton (178), Martha Snelson (176), and Susan Williams (173). The lone unsuccessful candidate was Charles Roark (134).
Hawkins County’s voter turnout Tuesday was 19,991 out of 35,838 registered voters, or 55.78 percent.