Election 2018 to bring new look to county commission

The Washington County district map now includes 15 districts.


Staff Writer


With all changes considered, the Washington County Commission will look pretty different by the time August rolls around.

The election, with primaries ending on Tuesday, May 1, doesn’t just contain both veteran candidates as well as newcomers; the commission will be reduced from 25 commissioners to 15 with one representative from each of the newly-aligned districts.

The commission voted in a 14-9 vote in February 2016 to adopt the reapportionment plan for the district map which included the reduced number of commissioners.

Commissioner Todd Hensley, who is not running for reelection, was part of the county’s reapportionment committee when the redistricting occurred. He said the decision to redistrict was based on population density and the idea of “one voter, one choice.”

“We wanted to substantially reduce the deviation between voter populations in the district. That was reason number one,” Hensley said. “Reason number two was that the idea of one commissioner in a district closely followed one voter, one voice. So you go to the polls and you can make a choice between this person or that person to represent you. No more were there two commissioners in some districts, three in others, one in one. That just didn’t make sense to us.”

Tennessee Code Annotated 5-1-111 says county legislative bodies are permitted to change boundaries or redistrict the county as a whole every 10 years or when needed in order to provide adequate representation in accordance to population. The law also states that the reapportionment has to be based on the most recent census data. Therefore, Hensley said, also the new districts were based on the 2010 census data for the county.

And in redistricting, Hensley said the majority of the redistricting was left to the state. He said the county did however request that communities be kept together. The commissioner also said the number of representatives on the commission was a big deal for many throughout the area.

“That was an issue in the previous election,” he said. “(The number of commissioners) arose as something that was important to some people. Not just commissioners, but our voters.”

The changes coming to the county commission have now also brought forth a race of some commissioners seeking reelection, but in a different district — and some facing incumbent opponents not previously in their respective district before the redrafting.

Commissioner Lee Chase (formerly in District 4), Commissioner Suzy Williams (also from District 4) and Commissioner George “Skip” Oldham (formerly in District 2) face off for the Fairmont, District 9 spot. The winner of that primary race will go up against Democrat Dennis Prater in the general election.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Mike Ford (formerly in District 7) and Commissioner Lynn Hodge (formerly in District 1) are running for the Sulphur Springs, District 15 slot. Hodge and Ford are also running against newcomer Logan Burleson (Republican) in the primary election.

Though the commission shuffle has affected some returning candidates, 16 of the 31 candidates are vying for a chance to sit at the commission table for the first time. Two county educators, a former Jonesborough Aldermen, a former sheriff, a Johnson City Commissioner, and a Jonesborough attorney are among the 16 newcomers on the ballot.

Meanwhile, there are four candidates running unopposed; Commission Chairman Greg Matherly will represent District 6, newcomer Jodi Jones will represent District 11, Commissioner Robbie Tester will represent District 12 and Commissioner Gary McAllister will represent District 13.

However, 10 commissioners are not running for reelection. In addition to Hensley, Commissioners Sam Humphreys, Richard Johnson, Tom Krieger, Mark Larkey, Mitch Meredith, Paul Stanton and Pat Wolfe are not in the commission race.

Commissioner Joe Grandy has entered the county mayor’s race while Commissioner Rick Storey has entered the trustee race.

Early voting began on Wednesday, April 11 and will end on Thursday, April 26. The polls are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 to 12 a.m.

Primary Election Day is Tuesday, May 1, with voting times from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Downes touts management experience in court clerk race

Brenda Downes


Staff Writer


After spending 19 years as a Washington County Jail Administrator, circuit court clerk candidate Brenda Downes said the experience makes her more than qualified for the position.

She began her career at the Washington County Sherriff’s Office after graduating from East Tennessee State University in 1993.

“I started as a jailer when the jail was located in downtown Jonesborough … I moved up quickly in rank and was promoted to the jail administrator of the Washington County Detention Center in 1999,” Downes said.

According to the candidate, her management experience makes her an ideal candidate.

“I’m looking for the opportunity to move to another office. I enjoy management; I have strived on working with and for the public over the past 24 years. I believe I am the candidate best qualified with my 19 years of county government management experience.”

Downes was born in New Jersey, raised in Roanoke, Virginia and moved to East Tennessee to attend ETSU, where she received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Downes believes her experience in county government will yield benefits for the clerk’s office.

“I have a proven record of leadership with positive results, and I believe that my knowledge of the entire system, not just one office, I can bring that same positive result to the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.”

She also said that utilizing technology would help those interacting with the clerk’s office.

“I will keep moving the office in a forward direction to better serve the citizens of Washington County. For example, I plan to modernize the office with electronic filing, updating the website and the implementation of passports.

“There’s a circuit court clerk who does passports in their office and I don’t know about you but if you’ve ever had to get a passport you know it can be difficult. So imagine the convenience of going to the circuit court clerk for a way to get your passport with little frustration.”

Downes said that people don’t always need the help of county officials, but when they do they should receive good service.

“Concern and responsiveness are the attributes they expect and rightfully so. As circuit court clerk, I will make sure everyone is treated equally fairly and with thoughtfulness.

“I have had the privilege in my working relationships and interaction with the citizens of Washington County; working with seven judges, the District Attorney’s office, the public defenders, numerous defense attorneys, all law enforcement agencies and the clerks.

“And I will continue this relationship and listen to the concerns or praises of the current office.”

Walsh believes her past has prepared her for this future

Michele Walsh


Staff Writer


Starting out on the bottom rung of the ladder and working your way up will give you all the knowledge you need to lead, circuit court clerk candidate Michele Walsh believes.

Walsh began in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office when she was 16 years old and became a full time employee in December of 1992.  She worked her way up to a supervisory position, spending 22 total years in the clerk’s office.

A life-long resident of Washington County, Walsh graduated from David Crockett High School.

“I’ve been involved in different things, just volunteering. I helped with the scouts, I used to teach Sunday School when I was younger, taught the four year old class,” Walsh said.

According to Walsh, she worked for the clerk’s office until 2011 when she left to spend more time with her family.

She was employed part-time as a legal assistant at a local law office and also as a secretary at Jonesborough Elementary School, until she returned to the clerk’s office in March of 2017.

“I’ve always been one of those people where there’s a need, I know that I can do it. I always like to offer my services and with the experience I have and my background I feel like I’m a huge asset to the clerk’s office,” Walsh said.

Walsh believes she has gained the knowledge required for the position in several different departments and job duties and would benefit the clerk’s office.

Walsh also believes technology could make the office more efficient.

“The big thing that I would like to see and do is to use different things with technology to make the office more user-friendly for everyone that uses the clerk’s office, from the attorneys to the police officers, the law enforcement agencies that use it. Even for the jurors that have to come in for jury duty.

“Currently our jurors call a telephone message every night after 5:00 p.m. to find out if they’re needed for the next day, and I know everybody doesn’t do e-mail but the vast majority of folks do … current technology that’s not going to cost the taxpayers anything. To set up a jury panel and be able to send out an e-mail every day to the jury panel so they know about tomorrow instead of having to make the phone call.”

According to Walsh, her experience in the clerk’s office has given her the skills needed for the position.

“I feel like definitely I have the experience but I also have that desire to make things good.

“Seeing all of the different things that the clerk’s office has been through, as far as when we moved from two different locations. I helped with the move; I was one of those people that was there boxing up paperwork; so I would say my organizational skills and my leadership abilities.”

Grandy promises leadership for Washington County

Joe Grandy is running for Washington County Mayor.


Staff Writer


The county mayor may have a lot of duties to fulfill, but for mayoral candidate Joe Grandy, really the position comes down to being one thing — a leader.

“For me, it’s about leadership. It’s about management skills,” Grandy said. “I’ve led a lot of different organizations on a voluntary basis across the community and I’ve led a multimillion dollar company to year after year double-digit growth.

“I think the leadership component of the race is really important because none of my opponents have anywhere near the leadership experience that I do. I think leading a county of people is a big task. And obviously, it’s important to the citizens.”

Grandy is the president and general manager of Ferguson Enterprises Inc., and has been working with the company for 40 years. He’s also been a county commissioner since elected in 2010.

Grandy said the predominant reason he first became a commissioner was due to the school project funding process that was used in 2007. Now, he said his focus remains on education for all students, whether they intend to prepare for college or the workforce out of high school.

“Education is the top priority — and to improve our educational outcomes and provide opportunities for all students across the county,” Grandy said. “So I think we need to continue to focus on our top performers and try to work on developing a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or magnet school so that we can push out the very highest results for our employers.

“But we also need to enhance the career and technical component of our schools so that the 20 percent or so of our students who don’t go to post secondary come to the workforce ready to go to work and already have skills.”

Grandy said he is also dedicated to continuing the county’s debt management plan, which he said contains a portion of debt from previous county commissions.

“There seems to be confusion as to who owns the debt. The vast majority of the county’s current debt was in place in 2010 when I first ran for commission,” he said. “Part of the reason that I ran was that we added to that debt in 2007 with paying no principle for 12 years on that debt. So here we are in 2018 and we have not paid down any of that debt that was incurred in 2007. That debt is not current commission debt. That goes back to before 2010.”

In response to that debt, Grandy sees the debt management plan as an opportunity to build financial success for the county.

“For the first time in anyone’s memory that I can recall, there’s a long-range plan for Washington County,” Grandy said. “The plan contemplates taking Washington County completely out of debt in 2037. I think that county government is just in a completely different place than it was seven years ago. So to be able to build on the plan that is currently in place is exciting to me.”

When it came to running for county mayor, Grandy said the position would allow him an opportunity to “give back” to a community he says has given so much to Grandy and his family.

“I am just very appreciative of the Washington County community and how supportive they have been of myself, my family and my business,” Grandy said. “I have always strived — and will continue to strive in this new role — to give back to the community in the best way I know how.”

For Grandy, “giving back” also means working to achieve financial success of Washington County.

“I think the role of the Washington County Mayor is, first and foremost, a leadership role with the responsibility as the chief financial officer of Washington County,” Grandy said. “I’ve said this before; leadership means stewardship and I just mean it.

“Not as a slogan, or saying, or a commentary, but it’s just critical that we have solid leadership and good, solid financial direction for Washington County and to continue the plan that will take Washington County out of debt in the future.”

Early voting for the May 1 Republican Primary Election will begin on April 11.

Ferguson ready to ‘do what’s right’ for local residents

Mark Ferguson is running for Washington County Mayor.


Staff Writer


For mayoral candidate Mark Ferguson, it’s simple; When it comes to hard decisions, there are times you have to “just do what’s right.”

And for Ferguson, that means keeping tax rates in mind while representing the citizens of Washington County.

“When I see the highest taxes in the history of Washington County,” Ferguson said, “and the runaway spending we’ve had, I just think it’s time the rural people have somebody to stand up for them.”

Ferguson, who was a county commissioner from 2006 to 2010, said when it comes to taxes, he also believes the county mayor should constantly consider the people in which he or she represents — and how taxpayer dollars are being utilized.

“When you’re spending another person’s money, you should spend it better than your own.,” Ferguson said. “So when you’re handling the taxpayers’ money, that is someone else’s money. I’m not for speculation with the taxpayer money. I am for economic development. I served 11 years on the economic development board, but I’m not for speculating the county’s money.”

But Ferguson isn’t just focused on taxes; he told the Herald & Tribune that if elected, part of what he wants to focus on is making sure the needs of the county are met — from public safety to citizens’ basic needs.

“We have needs in the county that aren’t even being met. We have people in this county who do not have clean drinking water,” Ferguson said. “We have fire departments that are in need, but yet, we’re giving away millions of dollars to multi-billion dollar companies with no accountability.

“We need to stop the giveaways and start taking care of the citizens of the county.”

In focusing on the needs of the county, Ferguson said he mostly wants to “do what’s right” — especially when it comes to the needs of the students of Washington County.

“I have been in politics all my life, but there are just a few things in life that you sit politics aside and just do what’s right,” he said. “When you’re talking about our school children, let’s quit playing games and let’s just do what’s right. The statement was made not long ago by a county commissioner that we can’t be fair in the county. Yes, we can be fair. There are just a few things in life where you just do what’s right.”

To Ferguson, Washington County also had a chance to “do what was right” in 2016 when the county voted in support of same-sex marriage.

“We lost that by one vote,” he said. “It didn’t change nothing, but we had an opportunity to do what was right and we failed to do it.”

Above all, Ferguson said he hopes the people of Washington County see him as a county resident who recognizes the true value of a dollar.

“I hope they understand I’m a lifelong resident of the county. I’ve been a business man for just about my entire life and I’m a family man,” Ferguson said. “I’ve been married to my wife for 39 years and I’ve got two kids and six grandchildren. I’m a conservative and I’ve worked hard in my life to learn how to get the full value of a dollar. And I want to do that same type service as a county mayor.”

Early voting for the May 1 Republican Primary Election will begin on April 11.

Sheriff’s office gets go-ahead on camera request


Staff Writer


The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is on its way to possible funding for body and vehicle cameras.

WCSO Sheriff Ed Graybeal and WCSO Chief Deputy Leighta Laitinen presented the request to the Washington County Budget Committee at the Wednesday, April 11, meeting for $548,420 for 111 wearable cameras and 80 patrol car dash cameras.

Ed Graybeal.

Graybeal said that while some officers in Washington County have body cameras, it’s important that his officers are equally equipped from both a safety and legal standpoint.

“The court system doesn’t understand that (one officer) has a camera but (another officer) doesn’t have one,” Graybeal said. “If you talk to attorneys who go to court all the time, they’re going to tell you that’s a huge liability. Us being accredited, one of our accreditation standards is everybody has to be uniformed the same. And this is a safety measure that if you don’t go to court on a for $4 million or $5 million dollar lawsuit, this camera saves you money right there.”

The request called for 111 wearable Wi-Fi enabled cameras and 80 patrol car retrofits with Wi-Fi and GPS enabled dash cameras and Wi-Fi enabled transfer stations.

Graybeal also said the equipment could help better ensure the security at local schools.

“A lot of schools, their radios don’t always work in some areas of the school, so we want them to have this body camera so everybody knows what went on,” Graybeal said. “It’s a real safety issue for the schools and the schools’ resource officers. And I think it would deter a lot of issues having these marked cars in front of the schools and you have a uniformed, post-certified full-time police officer sitting there. It works.”

Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge echoed Graybeal’s liability concerns while also adding that consistency in equipping all officers is a needed focus. Eldridge said the county’s insurance provider told the county mayor that consistency is key in equipping officers with this type of technology.

“He said we, Washington County, are at the point where we need to be consistent and either provide them this for all officers or for no officers,” Eldridge said. “One or the other because it’s getting to be a challenge in court if we aren’t consistent with what we do.”

The resolution for the equipment will be considered by the full commission at their next meeting on Monday, April 23, at 6 p.m. in Courtroom 7 at the George Jaynes Justice Center, which is located at 108 W Jackson Blvd #1210, Jonesborough.

While the WCSO got the go ahead from the budget committee, the school system’s request for funds to re-brick the Gray Elementary School building was put on hold for Washington County Department of Education Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Patrick to check for the most cost-efficient option for the project.

Patrick said the $300,000 project was included in the five-year capital projects improvement plan, but that a recent in-depth look at the building upped the price to $575,000. Patrick also said the BOE’s facility committee would be meeting to discuss and consider options for the project.

The next meeting of the school board’s facilities committee has not yet been scheduled.

Ferguson alleges released video edited, while Grandy claims campaign violation


Staff Writer


The election for Washington County’s mayoral office has added another layer to an already heated race and the charges are flying.

According to Republican candidate Joe Grandy, opponent Mark Ferguson has violated campaign finance laws by coordinating his mayoral campaign with a Political Action Committee, Taxpayers Fighting Back.

“The PAC funding mechanism is different than the campaign funding mechanism … and the law, I think, is to provide separation now,” Grandy said.

“There are some basic rules to follow. So campaign finance is one of them. And where there’s a PAC involved and a campaign, they can both work in the same direction; you’re just not allowed to have any coordination.’

“We’ve filed a complaint with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance … and it’s their responsibility to review the facts and make whatever determination they make,” Grandy said.

On the other side of the race, Washington County mayoral candidate Mark Ferguson held a press conference Thursday to announce he would not attend last Saturday’s Republican Party Candidate Forum, claiming that another candidate’s supporters were going to manipulate the event to put him at a disadvantage.

Ferguson alleged that “people working openly for my opponent are in charge and they are screening questions, trying to give my opponent every advantage, and to hurt me any way they can.”

Following that announcement, Ferguson alleged that his opponent’s supporters and the people running the debate Saturday had released an edited video from 2014 of Ferguson cursing at former mayor Kelly Wolfe and making what appears to be an aggressive move at Wolfe.

In the video, Ferguson refers to Wolfe as a “chicken-s***, son-of-a-b****” numerous times.

In one exchange between Ferguson and Wolfe, Ferguson says, “Why don’t you go ahead and hit me? See how hard you can hit me,” to which Wolfe responds, “Mark, you’re crazy.”

According to Wolfe, “the guy (Ferguson) took a swing at me. Came up from behind me and took a swing at me then. And I was able to get the camera out of my pocket at that point and start filming.”

Ferguson claims the video was sent by email and other means and that the video was shot “several years ago.”

”It was a bad time, it was a bad day and I had been pushed to my limit. If you’ve seen the video I want to say publicly I’m sorry for the language in this video. That’s not me. It was an ugly conversation,” Ferguson said.

“But it was a private conversation until now. It has been edited … it doesn’t show anything that happened before or what was said to me or how my wife and family had been hurt.”

Ferguson claimed that the video “shows I’m not afraid to stand up to the establishment … sometimes they call it hard-ball politics and I can play. Some of these people have forgotten, but I know things on them, too.”

His opening statement concerned Saturday’s debate and his reason for not attending.

“The deck has been stacked, and there’s no way for me to draw anything but a bad hand,” Ferguson said.

“I’m not afraid of questions. But why would anyone put their neck on a chopping block like that?”

The question became moot Friday night after the Saturday  Candidate Forum was cancelled due to concerns regarding “candidate safety,” according to the organizers.

A Facebook post regarding the forum by the Washington County Republican Party’s Chairman W. Turney Williams stated, “the scheduled event would have been conducted in an absolutely fair and open fashion …  any suggestion that the event was ‘rigged’ is not reality based.”

According to Williams, “the Chairman has received text messages delineating specific concerns regarding candidate safety. Unfortunately, in this political environment, we cannot guarantee the physical safety of the candidates or the public at large at this event.”

Early voting in the Republican Primary begins today, April 11. Election day is May 1.

Chase to run for re-election in new district

Lee Chase


Lee Chase, County Commissioner for the 9th District [newly created] has announced his bid for re-election to a third commission term. Chase cites his experience and leadership qualities as the basis for meriting consideration for a third term. “With the commission size being reduced from 25 to 15 members, plus having a new mayor for the first time in 8 years, experience and leadership in the commission will be vital to sustaining Washington County’s progress.”

Chase has previously served as vice-chair of the commission, chair of the Education Committee, Committee on Committees, and currently serves as chair of the Rules Committee as well as a member of the Health, Education and Welfare Committee.

On a state basis, he has been active in the Tennessee County Commissioner’s Association having served as Regional Vice President for the East Region, Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee as well as a board member for the past 3 years.

Locally, Chase cites his work as a board member [previously] for Central Baptist Church (Chair 1997), Johnson City Public Library, Johnson City Kiwanis Club (President 1997) and currently for Johnson City/Washington County Boys and Girls Club, Eastern 8 Community Development Corporation (Vice-Chair) and the Johnson City Development Authority.

“I was born in the district and have resided here for the past 39 years. I was married [Central Baptist]; our children were educated [Northside Elementary]; associated with a family business [Bed-in-a-Box.com] and worked [Dawn of Hope, Inc.] for 33 years – all in the district.

“The 9th district is my home and I highly value the opportunity to represent our great community in the county commission.”

Additional information can be found at Chase4WC.com

Ferguson hosts event for supporters

Doyle Cloyd and his great-niece, Camie Cloyd, take some time to enjoy the refreshments at Mark Ferguson’s ‘meet and greet’ Friday, where Ferguson was on hand to talk with his supporters.


Staff Writer


Friday afternoon, Washington County Mayoral Candidate Mark Ferguson’s supporters gathered together at the Jonesborough Visitors center for a “meet and greet”.

The Republican candidate greeted guests and made his way around the room during what Ferguson called a “social” from 5 to 7 p.m. For Ferguson, the event served as a way to reach Washington County citizens and spend time with voters.

“I’d love to talk to everyone in the county, but the county’s too big. I can’t get to them,” Ferguson said. “I’ve asked people to send me emails. I’ve asked them to send me the questions they’ve got.”

The three-hour event, which was catered by the Telford Diner, was attended by a group of folks in support of Ferguson’s campaign including elected county officials such as Washington County Board of Education member Annette Buchanan, who represents the First District, Washington County Commissioner Mike Ford, who is running for reelection in District 15, and Steve Light, who is running for reelection in District 1.

For one supporter and the campaign’s treasurer, Doyle Cloyd, who is also a former county clerk and commissioner, Ferguson stands for a lower-tax platform that he feels is needed in the county.

“He is a country boy who wants to make sure that our taxes stay as low as they can for the citizens of Washington County,” Cloyd said. “We need someone in there that knows county business and he does know county business.”

As for Ferguson, the event was the ideal way to concentrate on citizens and share his campaign’s platform.

“Special interests have controlled this county long enough,” Ferguson said. “And I want to be a people person. If I’m going to spend tax payer money, I want to spend it to help the people of this county. We’ve got needs in this county. And like I said before, we’ve got money for anything our heart’s in. But our heart’s just not in the average citizen for this county. Mine is.”

It’s a whole new scheme: BOE comes up with new plan for Jonesborough

School board member Mary Beth Dellinger points out some of the features with the board’s latest school design.


Staff Writer


The Jonesborough School K-8 project looks to be a K-4 project — for now.

During the Washington County Board of Education’s Thursday, April 5 meeting, school board member Mary Beth Dellinger made the motion for a new design option, “Scheme 4”, which is essentially the Scheme 2 plan to tear down the round portion of the current Jonesborough Elementary School building and make add-ons. However, Scheme 4 would leave out the upper right and middle wings on the design plan in order to cut costs.

In a 5-4 vote, board members Annette Buchanan, Dellinger, Keith Ervin, David Hammond and Phillip McLain were in favor while Todd Ganger, Jack Leonard, Clarence Mabe and Mike Masters were opposed.

“About a month ago, I was kind of brainstorming and thinking, ‘I don’t want to give up on Jonesborough. I want to try to get something that’s a little bit for everybody,’” Dellinger said. “I called (Architect Tony Street) and we kind of got together.

What we have talked about is we have $20,750,000 to deal with. We thought, ‘Where could we get to where we need to be?’ We felt like this was a good plan.”

The plan, which Street said he’s guessing would “even the board” of the $20,750,000 set aside for the project, would house a maximum of 660 students, meaning the school would be a K-4 school for the time being.

Dellinger said fifth through eighth grade students would, in this plan, attend Jonesborough Middle School until the board could put up the money to build the middle and top right wings, bringing the building to a full K-8. She said that money could be raised through selling some of the system’s buildings such as the Boones Creek properties.

For some, however, the design raised other facility concerns.

Mabe reminded the board that the roof at Jonesborough Elementary and at Jonesborough Middle both needed a new roof. The school district’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the roofs at both schools, should those buildings be attained by the district, would need to be roofed in a year. Patrick said it would cost around $510,000 to reroof the middle school. A new roof at the elementary school was estimated to cost around $730,000 at last month’s meeting.

“Someone asked why that is not planned for; when we came up with the schemes to build a new Jonesborough and new Boones Creek,” Patrick said, “we were not going to keep Boones Creek Elementary or Jonesborough Elementary. So that was never figured in the Washington County budget.”

Dellinger added that should there be money left over from the Scheme 4 plan, those dollars could go towards improving the plumbing at Jonesborough Middle School. Meanwhile, Ganger voiced a concern for the remaining Jonesborough Middle School building.

“Where are you going to get the money to fix the middle school? We’re already having to use extra money,” Ganger said. “Basically, you’re not worried about that. This board has to worry about that. All we’re doing is spending more and more money and we don’t even have the money to do anything now.”

Street said the Scheme 4 plan would include a new gym, kitchen and cafeteria, locker rooms and administrative area.

He also said the entire project, including the two wings to be added during the second phase of the Scheme 4 plan, still leaves the board $6 million out of budget.

For some, a phased school project was a solution that had worked in other Washington County School projects such as the construction of Lamar School.

“Our school system has built other schools in phases and I don’t understand why it wouldn’t work here,” Buchanan said. “We’ve had children in two different school buildings at one time. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it evolve, they waited a year and moved more students in. It worked.”

Dellinger also said the plan was a solution to the McCoy property discussion; the property, which sits adjacent to Jonesborough Elementary School, once purchased by the county, could provide a space for athletic fields as well as a road leading from the new school to the Old Jonesborough Highway.

At the county’s Health, Education and Welfare meeting earlier that day, the Washington County Mayor and the Washington County Commission expressed hesitation on purchasing that land until the board had a plan for the project.

“I’m really concerned that if we don’t get something in a plan, were are going to lose the opportunity to have the McCoy property,” Dellinger said. “(Street) had even designed a really nice road going out to the old Highway. We would lose that. We would lose that parking area. We mainly heard from the county commission that it’s mainly going to be just for ballfields, but no, there are a lot of other things that are necessary in purchasing the McCoy property. I feel like we need to get something in line tonight.”

Meanwhile, Hammond said he wanted a commitment that the K-8 project would come to completion and not remain at a reduced size.

“I want a commitment that it will be finished,” Hammond said. “I don’t want to go three, four or five years because then you’re looking at escalating construction costs, you’re looking at a whole new leadership. I would like some type of commitment.”

The Scheme 4 plan will be presented at the commission’s Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday, May 3 at 1 p.m. in the first floor conference room of Jonesborough’s Historic Courthouse.

Wetlands Water Park announces preseason discount on Season Passes

Wetlands Water Park in Jonesborough is ready to kick off its season with a preseason discount.


Wetlands Water Park, in Jonesborough announces the return of its preseason discount on Season for the 2018 season. Wetlands is located within beautiful Persimmon Ridge Park and has been the premiere Tri-Cities summertime family destination for 25 years.

Wetlands Water Park, offers a wide variety of family friendly fun including three flume water slides, two family otter slides, a lazy river, zero-depth entry pool, full service café and beach volleyball court.  Wetlands also plays host to numerous private parties, birthday parties, swim lessons and special events throughout the season.

Purchase your season pass between April 3 and May 4 to receive $10 off each season pass. Season passes may be purchased online at wetlandsjonesborough.com, by visiting the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center or calling (423)753-1553. Purchasing a Wetlands Season Pass ensures that you and your family will have a great summer.  A season pass also entitles you to discounted rates on birthday parties, swim lessons and much more!

Wetlands Water Park will hold its 2018 Grand Opening on Saturday, May 26. Regular hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, please call (423)753-1553 or visit our website at www.wetlandsjonesborough.com.

BOE passes ‘wish list’, spurs discussion on legal fees issues


Staff Writer


It might not be Christmas just yet, but the Washington County Board of Education already has their “wish list” in hand for budget season.

The wish list, which includes items such as security updates, textbooks and personnel positions, was passed by the board along with a budget containing a four percent raise for all Washington County Department of Education employees. School board member Mike Masters made the motion for the four percent raise. Seven board members voted in favor while Keith Ervin voted against the motion. David Hammond was absent.

For the board, however, no item spurred as much conversation as the new line item for legal services, totaling $89,000.

Washington County’s Department of Education’s Finance Director, Brad Hale, said the school system’s bill for February’s legal services came in around $8,100 while the March bill was around $9,400. He also said the system’s budget currently contains $13,000 for legal services.

“We don’t know if it will be that every month, it could be more, it could be less, but if you take those two months and average it,” Hale said, “roughly, that’s about $102,000 (in legal services for the year).”

Hale said the system estimated $89,000, in addition to the $13,000 already set aside for legal fees in the budget, to land at the $102,000 average.

Board member Phillip McLain asked if the board wanted to get the school board attorney, Scott Bennett, on retainer rather than at his current rate which, as of the Dec. 7 meeting when the board opted to hire Bennett, was set at $195 per hour. Bennett said at a previous board meeting that his monthly retainer rate is $4,500.

Before the board hired Bennett, the county commission footed the bill for Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley’s work with the BOE. Because the board has hired its own attorney, that cost now comes out of the school system’s budget rather than the county’s. The Washington County Commission also recently upped the amount of funds in its budget for legal services by $105,000, in part, to cover the amount of fees from the department of education’s legal services. The board’s legal fees covered by the county are prior to Bennett’s hiring.

McLain expressed that he was more concerned with the wish list, totaling over $2.4 million, rather than the legal services line item.

“We can’t survive without legal representation with all the legal issues that come about to the board and this system. I wish that the nine board members that are here were as concerned with these other items as they are with that one line with legal services,” McLain said.

“We’ve seen the numbers from Mr. Meredith (Commissioner and Finance Director Mitch Meredith), how there’s not going to be any new dollars for several years. Where’s $2.4 million going to come from? I’m just sitting here about to break out in a sweat over this thinking, ‘What are we going to do?’”

For other board members, like BOE Chairman Jack Leonard, having a new line item tacked onto the budget was a concern.

“These are just requests. This is a wish list. We’ve had these at every board budget meeting that we’ve had. We’ve always had a wish list and we’ve always had a number that was very high that we eventually had to cut down,” Leonard said. “We never had a legal fee. It’s never been a part of our budget. And that’s why we’re bringing it up as a concern.”

Ervin said he felt the commission might consider taking on those legal fees, if asked.

“No one would say one word if he was handing the bill to the commission. To be honest about it, I think the commission would pay it,” Ervin said. “They paid it (before) anyway, we’re just using a different attorney. We’re fixing to get a new commission, we’re fixing to get a new mayor. I feel like they’ll pay it. I really do.”

Though legal fees took up a majority of the discussion, a request for textbooks throughout the system was the highest cost on the list at $751,000.

Director of Materials Susan Kiernan said part of that cost was due to new science standards that are included in new science textbooks as well as the high schools’ requests for Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry textbooks.

“I asked all of our principals to get our textbook coordinators in the schools to see what we haven’t bought and to see if we were just not buying what has been requested (by parents),” Kiernan said, “(The textbooks requested) were the items from the high schools. All elementary and middle schools responded there was no need that had not been filled.”

Also on the wish list were funds for items such as literacy libraries and educational software.

Numerous positions such as two athletic trainers, two bus mechanics, a bus garage and maintenance secretary, a guidance counselor at Ridgeview Elementary, a full time instructional coach position at Fall Branch Elementary, two computer technicians, two seasonal maintenance workers, two computer technicians and two band directors. were also listed.

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton will present the budget to the county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee at their next meeting on Thursday, April 5 at 1:30 p.m. at the first floor conference room in Jonesborough’s Historic Courthouse. The school board will also hold its regularly scheduled April board meeting on Thursday, April 5 at the Department of Education at 6:30 p.m.

Progress on park, garage, theatre ahead for downtown

The future is looking bright for Jonesborough when it comes to parks, theatre and the benefits of a well-planned city garage.


Associate Editor


Look for progress on three major projects by the Town of Jonesborough in 2018 –  the moving of the maintenance garage and at its location, the development of a community park along with substantial work on the Jackson Theatre complex.

Operations Manager Craig Ford expects work on moving the garage will begin soon.  The garage is scheduled to be moved to a location on the town’s 19-acre Rosenbaum property, situated on Old State Route 34.   Aldermen voted in January to proceed with the $750,000 project to build a new facility to provide maintenance of the town’s 236 vehicles.  The funding also appropriates about $250,000 for a separate wastewater building, as the current town garage on North Lincoln Avenue houses water distribution, meters and street department operations.

The garage, which is almost 40 years old, is not considered adequate to house all the town’s vehicles and other operations.  In addition, the move locates the facility out of a residential area.  The new garage should be completed rapidly after a pad is laid down for the building site.  Ford said, “We will be ordering a pre-fabricated building after the grading work is completed.”  The town may also look at possibly developing a dog park at the new maintenance garage location.

“We’ve got a drainage project on Franklin Avenue and the completion of a turning lane near the new Dollar Tree to finish,” said Ford before work on the garage and park project can get underway.  The Operations Manager is also waiting for the ground to dry so that construction equipment can begin work at the site.  Other town infra-structure up-grades will include the replacement of cast iron water pipes along East Main Street.

A  park will then be developed at the former garage site located behind the Senior Center.  The proposed park would have a community garden, a walking trail, an area that could be utilized as an amphitheater, a meditation garden, garden plots and space to play badminton, horseshoes, shuffleboard and a Pickle Court.

Ford said the Jackson Theatre is a two-year project scheduled for work in three stages: 1. the area designated the stage door; 2. interior work in the theater including an addition to the back of the building, and 3. remodeling of the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.

Currently, work is underway to remove three stairwells from the area that will become the stage door. “All the work won’t be completed in 2018,” Ford said.  “After the interior of the theatre is cleaned out, we will have to bid a  contract for steel work on the  exterior walls. The building has good bones.”

Newly appointed Mayor Chuck Vest wants to see the three projects listed in the preceding paragraphs moving toward completion in 2018 along with further development of Persimmon Ridge Park.  The park described as “Jonesborough’s flagship green space” contains 130 acres of biking and hiking trails, the Lost State Scenic Walkway, baseball fields, a basketball court, a playground for children of all ages and a family-friendly water park.  There is also a popular 18-hole disc golf course at the site located a mile from downtown.

“There is such beauty in the trails at the park,” Vest said.  He looks to additional development of picnic and hiking trails along with softball fields.” He added, “I think that development of a camp ground at the park is on hold.”

Mayor Vest emphasized fiscal responsibility in town government indicating that the completion of the three major projects should be finished before taking on additional work.  “I’m going to look at rolling back the tax rate when work on the town’s budget gets underway.” 

“We need to take care of town employees,” the Mayor said.  “Our pay is generally where it needs to be but there are workers especially in the lower pay scales that need raises.”  Vest wants to continue to lower the rate of turnover among town employees.  “Employee turnover” he stated, is “non-productive.”

A member of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) for 12 years, Vest said when he first became a board member, the town was struggling financially.  Since then he says the town’s finances have grown to a point where the town is in good financial condition. “We have assets now we did not have 12 years ago. This has been accomplished,” he added, “while we have added a lot of features, many times using grants.”  He cites as examples the Chuckey Depot and McKinney Center.

Adam Dickson, appointed the town’s newest alderman on March 12th, said he wants to promote economic development in 2018.  “I’m hoping we can have economic development by way of using the town’s cultural resources.”

“Tourism and the natural beauty of the three counties in this area – Carter, Unicoi and Washington – have a positive appeal for people outside the area,” he said.  The three counties have formed the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NETREP) to attract visitors to this area of the state. “We have an archive, a genealogical society and a historic appeal in Jonesborough.”

“I want to share my ideas with Town Administrator Bob Browning,” Dickson said, “I’m glad to be back on the board. I read that heritage tourism can attract $30 million to the area.  The McKinney Center has been very helpful in developing cultural diversity and The Booker T. Washington Alumni Association had great things to say about the Center.”

“My perception is that people move here because of our quality of life,” said Alderman Terry Countermine when asked about what’s ahead in the community during the coming year.    He continued, “We have [provided] a balance of fiscal responsibility and a place where people want to live. Our staff has a vision that promotes events like Storytelling and with the help of individuals like Bill Kennedy, preservation [of Jonesborough] is important.”

The Alderman mentioned the three major community building projects outlining how each became part of the town’s progress.  “The Senior Center has been opened for three years.  In meetings we found that walking trails were important to them.  There will be an area set off at the park behind the center for individual garden plots.  [Also there will be] an area where you can walk in quiet space.   The amphitheater site located where we have a natural slope will provide an area for a storyteller or music group to perform.”

“The Pickle Court is a cross between tennis and games played with paddles.  It is popular in the Southwest,” Countermine said. A Wikipedia definition states:  “Pickleball is a paddle sport (similar to a racquet sport) that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis.  Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a  wiffle ball, over a net. The sport shares features of other racquet sports, the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules somewhat similar to tennis, with several modifications. Pickleball was invented in the mid 1960s as a children’s backyard pastime but has become one of America’s most popular growing sports among all ages.”

Countermine is looking forward to the Jackson Theater opening.  He said, “Like any remodeling project, it has challenges.  With the latest state grant, we can do it. This will be a really good addition to the town.  When completed, the theater will hold 320 people.”

The theater complex will provide the largest venue in the town for community events and special programs, including movie and video productions using the latest technology. The Jackson was the location of the town’s movie theater before it closed in September 1960. Cost of of the restoration and remodeling for the project has been estimated at $2 million.

The alderman praised staff members and volunteers who provide services at the Chester Inn Museum, McKinney Center, Chuckey Depot and Visitors Center along with the town’s various parks and recreation areas.  In talking about the McKinney Center he said, “that building is more and more popular for small to medium size groups. The Chuckey Depot is available for small parties at the caboose and many school groups visit the site.”

Like Alderman Dickson, Countermine thinks continued progress in attracting tourists and new residents to the community is a priority in 2018.  He said,”People do a search [on the internet] and decide to live here.” They discover, “Jonesborough is a friendly place.”

County adds funds for extra legal services


Staff Writer


At Monday’s Washington County Commission meeting, the commission opted to put $105,000 from the county’s general fund toward the county’s legal services.

Washington County Attorney Tom Seeley said the Washington County Board of Education’s litigation needs have increased the amount of services the county has endured. When Commissioner Lynn Hodge asked how much of the dollars spent in legal fees could be attributed to the department of education, Seeley said he didn’t have a figure, but that half of the total figure is “definitely” from the department of education.

“I don’t think tonight I can put a percentage on that,” Seeley said. “I think it’s a significant part of it because it has had some litigation there and we also had an administrative hearing on a personnel matter that was ongoing and lasted for several days. That created some extra expense because we had to actually hire the administrative hearing officer.”

Commissioner and Budget Chairman Joe Grandy said the county budgeted around $280,000 for legal services for the fiscal year. Commission Chairman Greg Matherly added that the $105,000 added to the county’s legal services is projected to cover the county for the remainder of the fiscal year as well as costs prior to Monday night’s commission meeting.

Matherly also added that the county was covering the school board’s legal fees prior to the board’s hiring of its own attorney not provided by the county.

Among other litigation, a lawsuit for $5 million from the former David Crockett High School coach, Gerald Sensabaugh, is pending against the school board and the director of schools. Sensabaugh filed the suit in January with the U.S. District Court, and claimed administrators treaded on Sensabaugh’s first and 14th amendment rights and retaliated against the coach after he sounded off on social media about various topics concerning the school district. Sensabaugh was fired earlier this month after an investigation report concerning the case was released and recommended Sensabaugh’s termination.

The next county commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 23 at 6 p.m. at the justice center. The next school board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington County Department of Education.

Bowman promises to bring 15 years of experience to seat

Teresa Bowman has entered the 2018 election for Washington County Register of Deeds.




For Teresa Bowman, experience in a job is always important. But to successfully perform the duties of Washington County’s Register of Deeds, Bowman said, it becomes not only important, but also essential.

“We deal with 100 different types of documents in our office,” said Bowman, who works as bookkeeper in the Register of Deeds office, and is currently a candidate in the 2018 election for the position, soon to be vacated by long-time register Ginger Jilton, who is retiring.  “This is not something you can do coming in off the street.”

Bowman has been a fixture in the register’s office for 15 years now, working alongside Jilton and a staff she considers dedicated and well-trained. As discussion turned to the possibility of Jilton’s retirement several years ago, Bowman said she was delighted to find herself chosen by her coworkers as the best person to follow in the current register’s footsteps. Since that time, she said, she has been focusing on learning every nuance of the job and is excited for the chance to serve.

“For the last few years, I have been involved in all the day-to-day workings of the office,” she stressed.

Of course, working with the public is nothing new to Bowman, who spent years in the banking industry before moving into the Register of Deeds office,  nor is a deep appreciation for the communities of Washington County for whom she wants to serve.

“I was raised in Johnson City,” Bowman said. “Thirty-three years ago I married my husband and moved to a farm in Bowmantown.”

County living was a new experience for this city girl, but she soon grew to love farm life, the closeness of her neighbors and their commitment to each other.

“It’s a good, family place to be,” she said. As for the other details of county living, “I don’t garden,” Bowman added with a smile. “But I can and I freeze and I (put up foods.)”

She is also, she said, exacting in her work and determined to maintain the high standards she believes are already a strong part of the Washington County Register of Deeds office.

“It is a very big responsibility,” Bowman stressed. “We have a great office. And we have a very good reputation.”

Bowman is determined to maintain that reputation. But she also has some dreams and goals of her own, especially in regards to veterans.

“The first thing I want to do is implement the Thank-A-Vet program,” she said. The program provides veterans with a photo ID card as a subsequent step in their discharge process, as well as some benefits along the way.

Bowman is also committed to continuing the historical preservations of vital county documents. Right now, she said, they’ve already been able to successfully preserve documents dating back to the late 1700s.

She wants to continue her already established relationships with local attorneys, software developers and numerous other contacts important to the smooth running of the county office.

And she remains dedicated to ensuring Washington County has access to the newest technology to better serve their public.

Mostly, however, Bowman said, she promises to continue to serve each and every citizen of Washington County in a way they deserve.

I will be a hands-on register. Even though I will be the register, I will be involved in the day to day,” Bowman said. I will continue to have the friendly, courteous atmosphere that we have and keep the records as accurate and safe as possible.”

Hartman shares excitement to serve in Washington County

Michael Hartman is running for Washington County Register of Deeds.




Michael Hartman is a strong believer in a grandparent’s wisdom.

“My grandparents had a big influence on my upbringing. And they actually gave me insight in how to treat and respect others,” Hartman said in a recent interview with the Herald & Tribune.

That  lesson, as well as the importance of giving back to his community, is something that Hartman said he has tried to follow all his life. It is also, he believes, a key part of this next chapter, his candidacy for Register of Deeds in Washington County.

“I just feel like its important to utilize our resources to their fullest extent,” Hartman explained. And he believes he is the man to do it.

Owner and operator of Hartman Properties for the past 17 years, this Register of Deeds candidate has become well-versed in anything related

to rental property, home remodeling and home building.

And, as a local businessman, he has had to operate efficiently and within budget, while successfully meeting the needs of his clients – no matter what the circumstances.

This background, Hartman believes, is invaluable as a new Register of Deeds.

But his quest involves so much more than that, he said.

“It has been important for me to give back to the community whenever I can,” Hartman stressed. As chairman of the Washington ton County Republican Party, Hartman was known for turning traditional Lincoln Day fundraisers into an opportunity for badly needed community food donations. Reagan Day Picnics became an ideal location to collect donations for local school supplies.

In much the same way, Hartman said, his role as Register of Deeds would be more community service than a means to an end or the pursuit of a title.

“At the end of the day, I don’t want to be a career politician,” Hartman stressed. If elected, he said, while he already has steps in place to hand the running of Hartman Properties over to his partners, he would be looking to serve only as long as he felt he was needed.

But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t already been making making up a list of goals should he be elected..

“The first thing that I want to say is I will keep the staff,” Hartman said. “I simply want to redirect the focus of the office.”

For this task, Hartman believes a fresh perspective is crucial.

“Sometimes, when we are in and around a situation a lot, we tend to become stagnant and not think outside the box,” he said. 

And while Hartman only had praise for departing register Ginger Jillton, he thinks it may be time for a change in direction.

“Any organization or business is only as good as its leader,” he said. “The leader sets the tone of the office.”

According to Hartman, his tone as leader would be to work to provide professional service, as well make sure the office was up-to-date and equipped with state-of-the software.

More importantly, however, a fine-tuned focus on the office’s responsibility to each and every citizen of Washington County would continually be stressed.

“If you are being paid to do something, you do it the best that you can,” Hartman said, repeating some more of the wisdom of his grandparents. The Register of Deeds  office is doing the business of the citizen’s of Washington County with funds provided by the county, he said, and the register and the staff must be able to do it well.

“Any office needs to be run in an effective customer-focused manner,” Hartman said. If elected, he said, his will be an office of fiscal restraint, where the customer is truly the most important party.

“The customer is the big focus,” he said.

Early voting for the May 1 Republican Primary Election will begin on April 11.

Storey believes hometown ties, banking background a benefit

Rick Storey is in the race for Washington County Trustee.


Staff Writer


After serving on so many boards over the years, Rick Storey, is no stranger to staying busy.

But things may have become even busier now that early voting, beginning April 11, is fast approaching for the May 1 Republican Primary.

Storey, currently a District 1 County Commissioner and also on the board for Citizens Bank, is running for the office of Washington County Trustee.

“I’ve lived my entire life in Washington County … I’ve been on a number of boards throughout the county for years,” Storey said.

Storey has served as the chair of the Johnson City Development Authority, United Way, the Gray Ruritan Club, the Washington County Library, MSHA, and the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce.  He has also worked in the banking business for over 40 years.

Storey  said the idea of running was “in the back of my mind for years.  I had always thought about that and this time it came along and I served on the commission.”

He believes a main concern for the county is the safety of taxpayers’ money. “I know we’ve got some idle cash in the county and there’s probably some investments out there. I’m talking about safe investments. I’m not talking about speculative investments.”

According to Storey, his background in banking would be beneficial to the trustee’s office. “I think we could generate some additional income, but I think I’ve got the knowledge in banking.  The main job of the trustee is kind of the banker for the county. You collect all the money whether it’s from the courts or the sheriff’s department. You account for all that, and you also collect the taxes.

“I think on the trust side looking at how to manage the cash flow, balance the accounts and look at getting maybe a higher return on the idle cash (is important).”

Storey said he would also look at other ways to enhance county residents interactions with the county government and that he would be open to suggestions from residents. He mentioned as a benefit the upgraded systems in the trustee’s office and the courts, with which users can access information online.

Regarding staffing in the trustee’s office, Storey said, “I don’t see any change in staffing and that’s always a concern from the folks that work there … as long as folks come in and do their job, why would you change your staff?”

The county trustee primary will be held on May 1, 2018, while early voting will begin on April 11, 2018.

Ford offers experience, zeal for his county in 2018 race

Ford is in the race for Washington County Trustee.


Staff Writer


After 27 years calling balls and strikes and arguing with the likes of legendary baseball managers such as Earl Weaver and Billy Martin, Dale Ford may consider politics a less stressful occupation.

Ford, a Republican running for the Washington County Trustee position, is a former member of the Tennessee House of Representatives and was a Major League Baseball umpire for 27 years.

Ford was the home plate umpire during the infamous World Series Game 6 between the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox when a hobbled Bill Buckner let a ground ball sneak between his legs, costing Boston the crucial game.

Ford served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 2006 through 2012 and was the vice-chair for the Agriculture Committee during the 2011-12 legislative sessions.  He also served on the Ethics and Transportation Committee during the same session.

He considers himself a key factor to the Exit 13 Interstate Exchange off I-26 in Gray.  The project is named in his honor: “The Honorable Dale Ford Exchange”.

“I was born and raised in Washington County and I want to do everything I can for the taxpayers of Washington County because that’s where I’m from,” Ford said.

He added that his main concern is the safety of the county taxpayers’ money.

“I’d like to keep the staff intact and be a conservative caretaker of the taxpayers money … I’ll make sure that the taxpayer gets their money’s worth when they pay their taxes,” Ford said, “And make sure that people eligible for a tax break, make sure they get it whether they are senior citizens or veterans. It doesn’t matter who it is. If you’re eligible for a tax break I will make sure you get it.”  Ford said he would not make any investments with taxpayer money without certain guarantees.

“I don’t want to go in there and do a lot of investments towards the stock market without guaranteed return.  I’ve got to take care of that money … and run your tax dollar just like I’d run my own.”

He also believes that the contacts he has in Nashville will benefit the county.

“I still have several contacts (in Nashville) with water and roads and I’d like to use that office to maybe get some of the water projects up here that we have fallen short on.

“The key is to sell yourself, and if they like you, you’ll get projects.  And since I’ve left there hasn’t been one road project or one water project.”

The former umpire and representative believes his personality will help him if he is elected. “I’m very easy to work with. I don’t bother anybody; I think if you do your job I’ll definitely do mine and we’ll get along fine.”

The county Trustee primary will be held on May 1, 2018, while early voting will begin on April 11, 2018.

Jonesborough reels from police-involved shooting on busy Jackson Boulevard

Traffic on 11E/Jackson Boulevard stalled Friday as officers faced a lone, knife-wielding male.


Staff Writer


The Town of Jonesborough is still in recovery mode days after a Church Hill man reportedly armed with a machete was shot and killed by a Jonesborough police officer in broad daylight in the midst of snarled traffic.

“It’s a tragedy that it didn’t turn out good,” Jonesborough Police Chief Ron Street said. “But sometimes we don’t get to choose that.”

According to the Jonesborough Police Incident Report, the chaos began with an alleged drug complaint at the Comfort Inn & Suites hotel on 11-E.  JPD officers responded and encountered 26-yr old Mark Clinton Harrell, of Church Hill, in the parking lot.

When officers attempted to talk with him, the report stated, Harrell “suddenly pulled a machete from his person and stated, ‘No I ain’t going back to prison.’”  The officers brandished service weapons and issued verbal commands to drop the weapon when Harrell raised the machete.

According to the report, the suspect ignored their instructions and threatened to cut his throat as he placed the blade against his throat.

Harrell then walked toward 11-E as officers continued to order him to drop the weapon, police said.  Three more JPD officers arrived to provide assistance and tried to defuse Harrell with less-lethal bean bag rounds.

The report stated that at that point “Harrell began to cut his throat with the machete saying he would make one of the officers shoot him.”

Harrell allegedly ran into traffic in the westbound lanes of 11-E where he fell to the ground.

According to Street, “It was an unusual situation.  We’ve got a lot of video footage of it. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation does, (and) several people put it on Facebook.  It was right in the middle of a traffic jam. (There were) a lot of witnesses to it, which normally doesn’t happen.”

When Harrell returned to his feet, “(he) raised the machete in a threatening manner and ran towards one of the officers,” the report stated. “The officer fearing for his life fired three rounds from his duty weapon striking Mark Harrell.” The wounded suspect fell and officers took the machete and began to give him first aid.

Harrell was transported to Johnson City Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Because the incident was an officer-involved shooting, Chief Street said he requested TBI assistance.

“I requested them to come in.  We called the attorney general, the attorney general has to authorize them to come in … and that’s just standard procedure.

“Any time you have an incident like that we try to get an independent party in to do the investigation so that it doesn’t look like we’re trying to cover up anything.  That’s why we turn it over to the TBI anytime there’s an officer-involved shooting.”

Street said he wasn’t certain when the TBI’s investigation would be complete and added that none of the officers involved were injured.

Because of the unusual circumstances of the incident, Friday’s occurence may have been a first for Tennessee’s oldest town.

“I don’t know if it’s happened in Jonesborough before or not,” he said. “I don’t recall one.”

Board taps Adam Dickson for vacant alderman seat

Alderman Adam Dickson is back on the Jonesborough BMA.




Members of  Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen may have cast the votes Monday appointing Adam Dickson as the town’s newest alderman —  but there was little doubt in the room that the town itself was the real decision maker.

At the packed March 12 meeting, town residents began making their feelings known long before the board could move onto agenda item 7A: discussion and possible action concerning the appointment of a replacement to fill the unexpired term of Jerome Fitzgerald, who had resigned on Feb. 26 to pursue a seat on the Washington County Commission,

“I am here to ask you to appoint Adam Dickson to fill the unexpired term of Jerome Fitzgerald,” Dr. Bill Kennedy told the board during the public comments section of the meeting following the surprise resignation of Mayor Kelly Wolfe. “He has dedicated his academic background  and life to our community and to personal service.

More than that he has demonstrated to us he has a passion for public service. That’s where his heart is.”

Dr. Kennedy also pointed out that his opinion was shared by current boardmembers, as he read back minutes from the Nov. 14, 2016 BMA meeting, the last meeting Dickson attended as alderman, having served the 2012-2016 term.

“Alderman Chuck Vest, you are reported in this meeting as saying Alderman Dickson was the kind of community service mindset we need in Jonesborough … He has been a blessing to the board and the town and he hopes and prays —  this is what you said, Alderman Vest — that this will not be the last time we see Alderman Dickson behind the microphone.”

Alderman David Sell, at that same meeting, Dr. Kennedy said, also voiced his support saying  “No one has a bigger heart than Alderman Dickson for the town.”

Dickson lost in the 2016 election after Fitzgerald, a town favorite, entered the race, pitting the three candidates — Terry Countermine, Fitzgerald and Dickson, against each other for two spots. Dickson came in behind Countermine by just 26 votes.

In addition to Dr. Kennedy, other supporters touted Dickson’s relationship with local businesses, his example as a role model for the minority youth in town and his ongoing commitment both in and out of office for both the community and its citizens.

“He really is a true public servant,” said Katelyn Yarbrough, Jonesborough resident and innkeeper at the Eureka Inn.

An impromptu vote by the audience with a show of hands for those in support to Dickson revealed almost unanimous agreement of  the 100 or so in attendance.

The public outpouring was cut short by Vest —  who would be moved into the mayor’s seat by the evening’s end to fill out the rest of Wolfe’s term. Vest  suggested that the board move ahead to the vote at this time.

“Adam was a great addition to our board. And this town needs people like Adam,” Vest said, making a  motion to appoint Dickson to the vacant alderman seat.

Sell seconded and the decision was unanimous.

Dickson was sworn in by Town Attorney Jim Wheeler.

“I’m grateful to serve,” Dickson said after the vote. Dickson will serve out the rest of Fitzgerald’s term, which expires in 2020.