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SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION 2022 – CHAD FLEENOR

From STAFF REPORTS

Growing up on a farm in Boones Creek, school board District 3 candidate Chad Fleenor still lives on the land he has known his whole life.

“I graduated from Daniel Boone in 1999. I work at Eastman and own Volunteer Stockyards in Greenville,” he said. “I am invested with two kids in the school system. I want to see our students have opportunities when they graduate to either pursue an education or be ready to go to work.”

Fleenor, a veteran school board member, has watched plans for the Jonesborough School unfold from table talks to groundbreaking.

“I joined the school board in 2018 when several options were on the table. There wasn’t a viable option that was affordable without a tax increase. I was as shocked as anyone to learn of the option that the Town of Jonesborough presented,” he said. “I appreciate them for their leadership in leading the effort for what will be a cornerstone for the Jonesborough community. The school board hasn’t been as involved have they have been in the past in construction of a new school, but I have the upmost confidence in the Town of Jonesborough.”

Moving forward, Fleenor is ready to take on what the future holds for the school board and the county.

“I am excited with what the future holds for our system. Our director is a true leader and I know has big plans for our system,” he said. “I want to see our system grow as we recover from Covid and see where Director Boyd takes us. I think we can be a leader in the state!”

A candidate who wanted to make a difference in the region, Fleenor began his school board work for Washington County in 2018.

“I wanted to make a difference is how I got started in 2018. I feel like I still have a lot to do. I love seeing our students in their success. I love supporting the kids and our staff,” he said. “We are incredibly blessed to have the best people in our system. Our staff members work tirelessly to set our kids up for success against all odds. Our board has prioritized people and we still aren’t finished. Our board has grown a lot in the last few years and put all personal agendas behind to put the students first. The work is not finished but our students are worth it!”

There are various things about this region that keep Fleenor wanting to serve, but one stands out above the others.

“People, people, people! Our region is so unique. If you see someone in need then you see our region stand up to help. We are compassionate to others and sensitive to each other’s needs,” he explained. “Our community has grown a lot in the last several years and there are a lot of new faces, but this is home. I couldn’t imagine living or raising my kids up anywhere else.

“I am lifelong resident and a product of Washington County. I go to church at West- minster Presbyterian Church in Johnson City. I am married to my wonderful wife Janee and have two kids in the school system. I want to give back and invest in our community that has blessed me and my family so much.”

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION 2022 – GREG HUDDLESTONE

From STAFF REPORTS

Running as a District 3 candidate for the Washington County Board of Education, Gregg Huddlestone spent 43 years in public education as a teacher and guidance counselor.

“I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling,” he said. “I have also served on various school board committees including curriculum, safety, and textbook selection while working in south Florida.”

Huddlestone feels he will add to the board with his background in teaching, as well as his knowledge of the school system itself.

“For 43 years I have worked with various superintendents, school board members, principals, teachers, and PTA’s,” he said. “Therefore, I have a good understanding of the inner workings of a school system, and I will use that experience to guide me in making decisions that will positively affect the students.

“My goals if elected are to increase the number of mental health therapists and guidance counselors in the school system, lower the class sizes in grades K-3, increase the communication between employees, par- ents, and students with the administration and provide tutoring assistance both after school and on Saturdays for students.”

The love Huddlestone has, not just for Washington County schools, but for the people, climate and mountains of the region, helps to fuel his passion for the position he seeks.

“I am very passionate about public education and have lobbied on its behalf for my whole career,” he said. “Having a master’s degree in counseling. I have been proven to be a good listener and will continue to do so as a school board member. I am also someone you can count on to go the distance if I believe the cause is right.

“I also believe funding should be provided to build the necessary playgrounds at the new Jonesborough school so that they are ready when the school is completed.”

Huddlestone has seen the school system from many sides throughout his career, and he is ready to see it from a new perspective.

“I believe that being a school board member is the most important thing I can do as an education professional. I want to use my 43 years of experience in public education to accomplish my goals and
to make the Washington County school system even better than it is. My motto throughout my career has been, Students – First – Always,” he said.

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION 2022 – DAVID HAMMOND

Seeking another term for the school board in District 3, David Hammond grew up in East Tennessee, attending Johnson City Schools and Unicoi County Schools.

“I have a daughter currently attending Washington County Schools,” he said. “I have a diverse business background and currently serving my third term on the school board.”

Hammond said one reason he wants to continue serving on the school board is he has a desire and dedication to serve others.

“I have been responsive to the needs and concerns of students, parents, teachers and community. I have been fiscally responsible supporting the needs of our school system,” he said. “Our school board and system were recently awarded ‘Best for All Districts’ by the Tennessee Department of Education for designating historical federal funding amounts directly on student achievement to improve academic outcomes.

“As far as the new Jones- borough School, a new school was long overdue. It has been a partnership with community, Jonesborough and Washington County! It is a win for the students and the community.”

Additionally, Hammond intends to continue his work on the school board just as he began it, with parental involvement, advocacy and transparency.

“I will continue to pro- mote parental involvement and transparency. I will continue to work with fellow board members and the director promoting and funding CTE programs for students seeking a career after graduating while continuing to promote and fund curriculum for students seeking to attend college,” he said. “I will continue to support a responsible budget. Teacher retention is a huge issue facing school systems today. I will continue to work with board members and the director to retain quality teachers, administrators and staff. I will continue

to work with board members and director to promote a responsible curriculum and school safety.”

Hammond, who describes himself as a servant who truly loves serving others, said his driving force for seeking another term is having a daughter and other family members in the system and a love for Washington County and East Tennessee.

“I look forward to working with our board members and School Director Jerry Boyd serving our county to equip our students to be career or college ready.

“The people are what I love about this region,” Hammond said. “Washington County and East Tennessee are second to none in quality of life and beauty, but I truly love the people.”

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION 2022 – VINCE WALTERS

From STAFF REPORTS

School Board District 1 candidate Vince Walters has been a part of Washington County in many different capacities his entire life.

“I went to Lamar School K-8, graduated David Crockett High School in 1994, went to Northeast State and obtained my Emergency Medical Technician license. I was an EMT working in the medical field until 1999,” he said. “I was a firefighter for Jonesborough and Fall Branch from 1995-1999. I started as a Law Enforcement Officer with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in 1998 and am still employed by the WCSO as a Criminal Investigator.”

Walters said that there are certain values and contributions that need to be brought to the position of school board member, and he feels he can fulfill those.

“I have leadership experience, I am a multi-tasker, time manager, I am articulate, organized and safety aware. I have people skills and have been a public servant for 24 years as a Law Enforcement Officer,” Walters said. “I will work to make our schools a safer place to learn. I have two daughters that are products of our school system, and I was involved very closely with their education. Through God’s grace, my wife and I were able to see them graduate successfully. My life experiences render me to handle school-related matters.

“I am a husband, father, son, Christian, Law Enforcement Officer, servant-hearted team member and problem solver.”

With the new Jonesborough School set to open next fall, Walters is grateful for those who made it happen and pleased for the children who get to take advantage of the learning opportunity.

“I am happy for the teachers, students and parents they are going to be able to have something they can be proud of and that is safer for learning,” he said. “One thing I love about this region is the rich history and the willingness of everyone to help someone in need.”

One goal Walters has for the position is being a representative for what the county needs.

“I have been a public servant as a Law Enforcement Officer for 24 years and my integrity and service are very important to me. I want to continue to make a difference in our community and our children’s lives,” he said. “My upmost goal is to be the representative that our community deserves, to voice THEIR ideas and concerns. I am going to work with our staff and community to keep our county moving forward.”

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION 2022 – KEITH ERVIN

From STAFF REPORTS

A 1984 graduate from David Crockett High School, local dairy farmer Keith Ervin from District 1 has served on the Washington County School Board for 16 years.

“I have twin daughters who also graduated from David Crockett High School and are also graduates of East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee,” he said. “This is home…. there is no place like Washington County in East Tennessee.

“This is where I was raised, I love Washington County, and watching kids grow and progress in life. I know how hard it is to make a living and I want to sup- port all staff in Washington County Schools.”

As a conservative school board member, Ervin said he wants to be a good steward to the community, especially when it comes to the taxpayer’s money.

“I will continue to advocate and do what is best for Washington County students, teachers, families, and community,” said Ervin. “I am open and say how I feel in meetings. I am here for the kids and when I vote I have the kids in mind.

“I am honest and caring. I like to help people and putting others first is important to me.”

With the new Jonesborough School on the horizon, Ervin is hopeful for what the Town of Jonesborough will accomplish with the new facility.

“Being on the board I have supported building a new school for Jonesborough families. A project of this type has been new and challenging, especially the funding plan,” he said. “It’s putting a lot of trust in the Town of Jonesborough. I hope Jonesborough knows how to build a school.”

But as a school board member, Ervin knows importance of putting the children first when it comes to education, and feels he will continue to bring that support to the school board.

“My goals are keeping kids in school, increase graduation rate in the high schools, pushing more CTE programs, college readiness, and help students achieve at the next level after high school,” said Ervin. “These goals will help progress the community of Washington County.”

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION 2022 – CODY DAY

From STAFF REPORTS

Local electrician and realtor Cody Day is ready to addanewhattohisrackby running for the Washington County School Board for District 1. And he feels that by having strong beliefs in the founding fathers and
the actions they took, the constitution can still be followed and abided by to allow freedom “from sea to shining sea” today.

“I am a Christian, husband and a father to three amazing boys. My family and God have had a huge impact on my life and the direction of my life,” Day said. “I feel like I’m directly where I’m supposed to be.”

Day said that the values and contributions he will bring to the school board include understanding, knowledge and a servant’s heart.

“Personally, I love to think one of the greatest values I bring to this position is real world understanding on budget, workable knowledge, and the ability to be levelheaded and work through every problem with a common sense approach,” he said. “I am serving for the people of this community and the kids of this school system. It’s no different than me serving my clients every single day.”

Additionally, Day has many goals he would like to achieve from the school board seat, and two of those are very specific.

“One of my largest goals is to push our vocational program to the full potential that they have. I have spoken to many of the teachers and people involved in the programs and have an understanding in some of the needs they have,”
he explained. “Also, as an alumnus from the Washington County school system who went into the trades, I see first-hand the needs that the trade fields will need in the near future. As well as farming, nursing, technology and running small businesses.

“I also want to keep our school system somewhat small-town minded. Here in East Tennessee we still value the idea of small-town family. I believe that we can keep these values all while creating the most comprehensive learning experience kids can have.”

For Day, this includes the new Jonesborough School.

“My child went to the existing Jonesborough Middle School last year. I feel that this new school was a desperate need to the children as well as the teachers, administrators and the community,” he said. “I feel as if the current board has done very well leveling the table and making it a very comprehensive as well as budget-friendly process. I would love to see this community really get behind each and every school so we can utilize them to their full potential.”

To serve in the capacity Day wants to serve, he feels that there is one main component to doing the job service.

“Purpose! My purpose in life is to create a future that my kids can be proud of. Children are the future of this country. Way too often do we see kids getting looked over and their learn- ing environment not be put to the top priority,” he said. “These children are the ones who will run the country and drive the economy long after we are gone. We can instill a work ethic and drive for purpose, a drive for knowledge at a young age so we have set our children and country up for success.”

Not only does Day have a love and passion for the children of the region, but also for the region itself.

“I love everything about this region. I have had the opportunity to move and go other places. I can’t seem to picture myself anywhere else, doing anything else,” Day said. “I love our community, the simple hellos and waves to the picking each other up when we fall. This community has become one of the strongest and most well-rounded areas. I don’t want to see that get forgotten and caught up in the drama the rest of the world has to offer.”

Day said that he is a hard- working and moral man, but that’s not all that describes the school board candidate.

“I am grounded, and I am simply common sense first. A lot of times things that just seem too simple or too easy make the most sense. I would like to think that one attribute I can offer is my ability to work on teams as well. I regard the soft skills (handshaking, eye contact and respect) as some of the most important skills taught,” said Day. “I handle stress well and can handle extreme workloads. I put my faith first, my family second and then the rest of the world.”

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION 2022 – Annette Buchanan

From STAFF REPORTS

A long-term community member on the southside of Washington County, District 1 candidate Annette Buchanan attended West View School for elementary school, Lamar School for middle school and graduated from David Crockett High School.

“I am also a graduate of East Tennessee State University where I earned an education degree. I began my teaching career at Jonesborough Middle School. During my time at Jonesborough Middle School, my husband and I made the decision for me to take time to stay a home to be a full-time moth- er to our children,” she said. “I now volunteer at Cherry Grove Baptist Church as a coordinator for a children’s food pantry that serves chidren that are food insecure.

I teach ages two and three, co-direct the nursery program, and volunteer on the youth council at the same church. I am also a member of Lamar Ruritan.”

Being a lifelong member of the community, Buchanan said she knows the importance of community and wants to bring those values to the school board position.

“I have strong community values. I was raised to be kind, caring and encouraging toward others. I have been taught to help others in need,” she said. “I am a hard worker and was taught if a job is worth doing, it was worth doing right. I bring a posi- tive attitude with educational knowledge to the boardroom.

“The list of reasons why I love this region is very long, but at the top of the list would be the people. Washington County is full of what our grandparents called ‘Salt of the Earth’ people. Neighbors helping neighbors, and there is always someone who is willing to help. Being born and raised in Washington County is and has been a blessing.”

One part of the community Buchanan is excited to have seen come to fruition as a board member and a parent is the new Jonesborough School.

“Jonesborough has needed a new school for a long time. The board was approached with a plan from the Town of Jonesborough that wanted to help make a new school a reality. Over time, I was contacted by numerous stakeholders within my dis- trict,” said Buchanan. “These community members echoed what I already had known to be true. The board voted unanimously to make the agreement and I support the decision of the WCBO.

“I would like to see the completion of the Jonesborough School. I am familiar with the contract and have knowledge to fulfill the obligation the current board has agreed to in the contract. I would like to see a priority placed on K-3 classrooms to meet a goal of students leaving the third grade on or above grade level reading. I also want to continue to advocate for career technical education. I would like to see CTE be rebranded in our communities as these skills are greatly needed in our area.”

Buchanan added that she would describe herself as a dependable and hardworking person who cares deeply about her community, especially the children.

“I am a good listener. I am always willing to help others when they are in need. I do not have a loud personality. I tend to be on the quieter side. I enjoy working behind the scenes to work toward accomplishing goals.

Buchanan would like to continue in her role as a school board member to, not only see the success of the past, but of the future as well.

“There are many opportunities as a school board member to bring positive change in the community. I would be honored to continue to serve and to work towards common goals. I am passionate about our community and want to continue supporting our students in their endeavors,” she said. The opportunity to represent public education in our area to our state, local and federal governing bodies, is a privilege that I do not take lightly. I always want the community to know I am working for the future of our students.”

SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION 2022 – KERRIE AISTROP

From STAFF REPORTS

A lifelong resident of Washington County and a graduate of Daniel Boone High School, District candidate Kerrie Aistrop feels that she will contribute to the school board in various ways.

“Before my oldest son started school, all I knew about school was from my experience as a student. Once he started, I saw that there was a real need for parents and the community to get involved in the education of our children. We owe it to our children to pay attention to their daily school lives, and to speak up for them when necessary,” Aistrop said. “Washington County is full of excellent teachers and staff; however, all our children are different and have varied needs and capabilities. It’s important that parents and teachers have an open and transparent line of communication to ensure that we are doing what’s best for every single child.”

A graduate of East Tennessee State University and Lincoln Memo- rial University, Aistrop has been married to her husband Jamie for almost 20 years, and the two have two children, Logan who is 13 and Jackson who
is 11, both who attend Washington County Schools. Which adds to her advocacy for the new Jonesborough School that is underway.

“I have been a strong advocate for the new Jonesborough School since the day it was first discussed. Watching the funding models and design ideas get kicked down the road was very frustrating. I spent years attending every WCDE and County Commission meeting I could and spoke about the need for a solution every time I had the chance.”

“When the Town of Jonesborough presented their solution, I was beyond ecstatic, but I wasn’t going to give up until I saw dirt being moved. I was fortunate enough to be able to speak as a Parent Representative at the Groundbreaking Ceremony,” she said. “That day was the highlight of my fight for the children. It’s so exciting to drive by the site and see things moving forward as quickly as they are. The Jonesborough children and staff deserve it, and I look forward to seeing the halls filled with kids.”

With her background in sales consultation, Aistrop feels that she will be a good candidate to handle budgets and relationships with the Washington County Commission.

“One of main goals will be to focus on the budget. I want to build a better relationship with the County Commission that will allow us to work more closely during the budget process. I would like to in- crease the transparency of the work the School Board is doing. I would like to create parent and teacher groups that represent each school,” she said. “I want teacher and parents to feel more welcome, and to understand that their voice and opinions matter when it comes to our schools. I want to change the process for parents to address the school board. I want parents to feel like we value their thoughts, and I don’t think each request to address the board needs to be approved by the Chairman.

“Much like the Com- mission, I believe parents and community members should be allowed to sign up to address the board the night of the meeting. Another main goal of mine will be to acknowledge the shortage we have of teachers and staff. As a board, we would need to come together to find better ways to incentivize and retain our school employees. Above all else, student safety is a main concern. Fighting, bully- ing, and vaping are major issues in our schools. We must act swiftly to come up with a plan to address these problems so that our teachers and students can feel safer in class.” Additionally, Aistrop wants to be a strong leader within, not only the school board, but also the community.

“I have proven myself to be a leader in the community. I can listen to all sides and then work to come up with a solution that works for the majority. I’ve been heavily involved in Washington County Schools for over seven years,” said Aistrop. “I’m a strong believer that we must put the priority on our students. The children walking the halls of Washington County Schools are the future of our communities, county, and country. We should all feel compelled to serve them to the best of our ability for their future and ours.”

Aistrop’s tie to the region and history in Washington County is another reason she wants to serve the area.

“I love East Tennessee and Washington County and all the region has to offer. I’ve traveled to many places around the country, and I’ve never seen a more friendly population that has so much to offer,” she said. “I think if we can tap into what our community members have to offer, and get them engaged in our schools, the sky is the limit for what Washington County Schools can offer.

“In closing, I would like to say that I am a caring and compassionate person that would be honored to have the opportunity to serve on the Washington County School Board.”

COUNTY CLERK ELECTION 2022 – CHERYL STOREY

By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]

Born and raised in Washington County, Cheryl Storey worked in the county clerk’s office for 20 years, beginning in 2001. Now she’s running for county clerk itself.

“In 2003, I became full time. In 2011, I became the chief deputy and office manager under our current county clerk, Kathy Storey,” she said. “If I’m elected, I will bring 20 years of experience and knowing what to do from day one.”

Storey says that she already has some goals in mind for the position if she is elected.

“Future goals would be to put in place kiosks for renew- ing, so residents don’t have to stand in line. Sometimes we do have long lines, so that would be one of my goals; to install kiosks for renewing license plates,” she explained. “I feel like I’m the best qualified candidate for the job. I have the experience it takes, and I know what works well and areas that need improvement.”

In addition to experience, Storey also feels she has what it takes in other aspects as well.

“I’m a friendly and outgoing person. I’ve been married for 24 years to my husband Wes, and we have a daughter Allie that’s 18 who is a senior at Daniel Boone High School and dual enrolled through ETSU,” she said. “I’m a family person first and foremost.”

Storey said she is asking for the support of the Washing- ton County residents in the May 3rd election.

COUNTY CLERK ELECTION 2022 – DANNY EDENS

By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]

Currently serving as a Washington County Commissioner for District 4, Danny Edens is a United States Air Force Veteran seeking election as the next Washington County Clerk.

“I have proven leadership skills through my military service, my 16 years of experience in county government, and my 25 plus years as an assistant supervisor for the Town of Jonesborough,” he said.

Edens adds that the goals he has in mind for the position involve the leadership skills he as attained over the years.

“My goals for this position are to apply my leadership skills and bring positive change to the County Clerk’s office. I want to improve the service for the taxpayers of Washington County by implementing new and improved ideas, as well as providing new and innovative services such as driver’s license renewals, hunting and fishing licenses, and possibly extended hours,” he said. “I feel by being attentive and accessible to all taxpayers will provide a better customer service experience.”

As one who has served, not only for the town, but for his country, Edens wants to continue serving the county in a new role and capacity.

“Seeking the office of County Clerk will allow me the opportunity to continue serving the taxpayers of Washington County on a full-time basis,” he said. “It will allow me the opportunity to dedicate all my time and efforts to improve the service of this office by bringing positive change.”

Edens and his wife of 38 years Kelly have two grown children and five grandchildren to which he is dedicated, and he feels the same about the county.

“I would describe myself as hardworking, dedicated, honest and trustworthy. I am loyal servant to the people of this county who always says what he means and means what he says,” he said.

SHERIFF ELECTION 2022 – KEITH SEXTON

By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]

Currently serving as interim sheriff for the Washington County Sheriff’s Department (WCSO), Keith Sexton describes himself as a hard- core conservative Republican, who believes in God, the 2nd amendment, freedom of speech and family.

“I have spent my life as a public servant, choosing a career as a law enforcement officer serving Washington County and Johnson City over 30 years now. I started my law enforcement career in January of 1991, working with Washington County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years, where I was promoted through the ranks to the rank of Lieutenant/Watch Commander,” Sexton said. “I am also an FBI certified bomb technician, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team commander, and the SWAT Team commander. I have also been a canine officer for the sheriff’s department and done parts of administration.”

To Sexton, when it comes to any of these positions, leadership is the most import- ant part of any job. “I’ve been there and done that. To be a leader, you have to be able to make decisions under pressure in the real world. I feel I am
a respected leader for both agencies,” he said.

Sexton explains his platform consists of three things:

1.To provide the citizens of Washington County with a Sheriff and a Sheriff’s Office engaged in an active partner- ship with the community to fight crime, especially drug-re- lated crimes, by being immediately responsive to community needs and addressing neighborhood conditions that create an environment that cultivates crime.

2. To restore openness and trust in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office administration by applying firm, fair and consistent management practices regarding departmental regulations and enforcement of the law.

3. To increase inter-agency communication and professionalism through providing advanced training and career path opportunities to curb employee turnover, provide employees with a clear path for professional development and to prepare them for advancement.

As a leader, Sexton has clear goals he plans to implement if elected to the position, such as more officers in the community on patrol and a renewed emphasis on drugs and crime.

“The drug problem is nationwide, but it’s here in Washington County too,” he said. “We need to renew an emphasis on the drug problem as well as crimes, such as burglary. I inherited a lot of serious problems as interim sheriff, one being we have 10 officers on patrol right now if we are lucky. We need more to combat the drugs and crime.”

Becoming sheriff isn’t something Sexton takes lightly, nor something that he just decided to take on without thinking.

“This has been a 20-plus year goal,” he said. “I told my- self that in 2022 I was going to run for sheriff. I have 30 years’ experience with proof to show. I am a swiss army knife of law enforcement in this community. I have been offered jobs many other places, but I stayed here because I want to be here and do what needs to be done. I want to lead from the front.”

Sexton added that he has a great deal of real law enforcement leadership experience in both agencies. “I am firm, fair and consistent as a leader. You can never be wrong doing the right thing,” he said. “I do what I say and have the work record to show it. I want to be a sheriff that talks to
the community and connects neighbors.”

Sexton said he is dedicated to his profession, but God is always first, then family, then community. And he wants to set that example for the region.

“Throughout my career, no matter my rank or position, I have always believed in treating people the way I want to be treated, respectful, polite and professional. I will be available, approachable, and ready to work hand in hand with the citizens of Washing- ton county,” he said. “I humbly ask for your support, your vote and I pledge to uphold the responsibilities of the office of Sheriff with the utmost re- spect, integrity, and honor due to the citizens of Washington County.”

SHERIFF ELECTION 2022 – MICHAEL TEMPLETON

By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]

A native of East Tennessee, Michael Templeton says he is a constitutional conservative who is running for the position of Washington County Sheriff in the Spring 2022 election.

Residing with his wife of 25 years on a farm in Jones- borough, Templeton began his lifelong commitment to service of others in 1992 by becoming a Public Safety Officer in Johnson City with the police department.

For the past 25 years, Templeton served as a Special Agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), including 10 years in Washington County targeting and dismantling the largest drug trafficking networks in the region.

In August in 2021, Templeton saw that Washington County needed leadership and direction, so he decided to retire from government service and seek election to become the next sheriff.

“I’m going to be a constitutional sheriff. That is one that abides by the constitution. My views are that a constitutional sheriff stands up for the people before anything else.
I intend to be that wall from far-left mandates to overreach- ing government, whether its republican or democrat. I am here to protect the residents
of Washington County from anything unlawful or unconstitutional,” he said.

Templeton adds that what’s interesting about a sheriff in the United States is that they don’t have to answer to the President, nor the governor, nor the mayor of Washington County.

“They answer only to the tax-payers. And the only way you can get reassurance from them is to vote every four years. That’s it,” he said. “So, the sheriff’s race is super important in that aspect.

“Such as, I believe that, as much controversy as there has been around Covid, and mandates, I believe that man- dates are not laws passed by Congress. And I don’t think that a sheriff necessarily has to enforce those mandates. And that goes for school board meetings. I’m a staunch proponent for parents. I think that parents have an absolute say so in what their kids are being taught in school. So, I just want to be there in the school board meetings personally myself. I’m not sending a deputy. I will sit with the parents in plain clothes to make sure their voice is heard.”

Templeton, who has served in various capacities in law enforcement, says that he hasn’t always stayed and served in the immediate area.

“I’ve traveled around. I spent two years in Pakistan. I spent two and a half years in Afghanistan. Spent six years in Florida, so I’ve moved around. And always made my way back home. People here in East Tennessee are just better than anyone I’ve every experienced,” he said. “I’m from here. I’ve traveled around, different parts of the country, and you don’t get the hospitality in any other part of the world that you do here,” he said. “That’s what’s truly special about East Tennessee. That’s how I was raised so those are the values I bring forth. That East Tennessee mindset of ‘Love thine neighbor,’ ‘Treat others as you want to be treated’ and that’s how I’m going to manage this sheriff’s office too.

“Everybody in there, they’re the ones working. They’re the ones putting their lives on the line. I’m going to do that too, but I am going to treat every employee, male and female, jailer, admin, or deputy exactly the way I would want to be treated.”

One thing Templeton feels he will bring to this position is his attention to the drug issue that plagues Washington County. “The situation in Washington County is desperate like it is in a lot of other parts of the country. We are a drug-addicted county,” he explained. “There are so many people addicted to methamphetamine and fentanyl. It started years ago with doctors prescribing pills that got them addicted.

“Last year, you had 2,000 Tennesseans die of opioid related deaths. 100,000 people died last year in the United States,” he said. “To put that in perspective, every day, the equivalent of a Boeing 747 goes down killing everybody, that’s how many people are dying every day of fentanyl related deaths.”

“Washington County Sheriff’s Department, that has been around since 1777, has never had a drug unit. They’ve always relied on the DEA or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to do the drug work in this county,” he continued. “The problem is, the DEA has two special agents in Johnson City. They cover ten different counties. So, I intend to set up a drug unit the first week I’m there. We need to think globally and act locally when it comes to drug trade. You have to know the problem before you can address it.”

Templeton says that his beliefs are simple; God. Family. Country. “I ask for your continued support and please go vote.”

SHERIFF ELECTION 2022 – LEIGHTA LAITENEN

By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]

Leighta Laitinen has worked for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office since July 10, 1995, starting her career as a human resources clerk and growing it into the position of sheriff’s deputy.

“I would work on pay issues and writing job descriptions, and never even considered being an officer,” she said. “HR was my background at the hospital, so I held that job, then got promoted to administrative services director. From there, promoted to chief operations officer, and I started with the detention center under me, I didn’t have any warrant officers at that time.

“I went to the police academy when I was 45. I did very well, and I got the leadership award for my class. Came back and reassumed my role as chief operating officer.”

Following her return, one of Laitinen’s best friends, who was the chief deputy at the time, passed away unexpectedly in 2017, and “the sheriff asked me to step in as the chief deputy and I did that,” she said. “So, I was chief deputy from 2017 until November of 2021.”

Laitinen feels that her background in communications, as well as experience in the administrative field, are her strong points, along with her approach to interacting with others.

“I always work very hard to be fair and consistent and treat people well, whether they be an inmate or an employee,” she said. “I definitely know that department inside and out, more so than either of my opponents. Especially the detention center, which anyone who wants to run for sheriff will learn soon, if they don’t already know, is the detention center is what keeps you awake at night worried. Because there are so many variables and
so many things that can go wrong.

“To manage a facility with over 600 inmates and 115 employees, and that’s just the detention side, I’m the only candidate that has done that. The other two candidates have no experience what- soever with the detention facility.”

Additionally, Laitinen said she has held every position in administration and believes her ability to communicate with people and to listen
is very important. And it’s also important to make sure employees are firm, fair and consistent in how they operate. Especially when it comes to the goals Laitinen has in mind for the area.

“First and foremost, we always have to fight this battle with drugs in our area. I think that there are things I can do that will definitely improve that. I think we need to focus more on where the money is coming from,” she said. “If you trace the money, you will find where the big bulk of the drugs are. And that would take some expertise that we’ve not had in the past.

“I would look at hiring someone who could do that, who’s got experience
in forensics accounting. I would also look at collaborating with mental health professionals and addiction specialists in our region. Because I would guess 85% of our inmates are in there do to some form or fashion of an addiction or a mental health issue. And at the current time, we don’t have a lot for them. They do their time, they’re let go, and they go right back to what they know.”

Laitinen said she’s had inmates tell her that the first thing they are going to do when they get out is go get high.

“Even if they’ve been in there ten years, they say that’s the first thing they are going to do. If we don’t look at implementing more programs to help, and cutting down recidivism, the thing is, we can’t keep building bigger jails, that doesn’t work and that just costs us more money,” she explained. “It obviously doesn’t fix the problem. We are all building bigger facilities and spending millions of dollars and we’re filling them up.

“How about we take mil- lions of dollars and help with some rehabs or programs? And I’m not trying to be soft on criminals by any stretch. But there are a lot of people that if you could just give them a hand up and not a handout on life, they might not come back to jail.”

Because Laitinen has always worked in some form or fashion in a field that serves the public or the community, she said she has seen what works and doesn’t work.

“I know the politics involved in that organization and I know what it takes to

run it and I’ve seen things I would do differently,” she said. “I’ve certainly got the experience and have put in the time to do that, and I would want to do it to help the officers. I’ve always fought for the employees of that department.

“The officers always knew I had their back. They always knew that I would fight for them, that I would stand up for them, and that matters in law enforcement, especially in the environment we are working in today.”

Though Laitinen has been in law enforcement for 27 years, she said that there is more to her as well.

“I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a daughter. I’m everything that everybody else out there is,” she said. “I like to consider myself no better than anyone else. I have always tried to leave things better than I found them and I think that if you talk to anyone else that I’ve worked with, they will say that’s definitely true. I care about people; I care about this county.

“I don’t want to sit in the office. I want to go out, I want to be talking to people who have the problems.”

MAYOR ELECTION 2022- JAMES REEVES

By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]

James Reeves has been following politics longer than he has been an auto mechan- ic, which is 37 years.

“My dad walked into a commission meeting, read the law and basically beat city hall,” Reeves said. “And I was always intrigued by it. I’ve always been a numbers guy, so I started looking into the financing of how cities and counties work in real life. There’s a lot of things us regular people don’t know about.”

Reeves said that he has been going into county courthouses and meetings for years just to understand better what is happening behind the scenes.

“I’ve always been that guy that sits in the back of the room and watches, learns, understands people,” he said. “And I realize I’m not that young kid in the back of the room anymore. There’s a better way of doing things. I’ve always had the fore- thought that government is supposed to be controlled by the people. We’ve just done an awful job of doing that.

“I think 20,000 people voted in the election four years ago out of 60,000 voters. So, one-third of the voters, that are registered voters in the county, voted in the election. Their voices aren’t heard, but a lot of people have given up. I want people, a few years down the road to say they are proud they voted for me. You don’t have to hide in shame.”

Additionally, Reeves said he is a big proponent of something he feels should have been done a few years ago that’s hard to get done.

“It’s hard to get done be- cause the people in charge are the people that have got to do it. And that is term limits,” he said. “Public service is public service. Get in there and do what you think you’re going to do, what you think you should do, then go back to the public.”

Reeves said that he re- views budgets even now to find where the money goes within the district.

“Between being a real math whiz and the intrigue of where our money goes, and then being able to ask the questions, I’m not that guy in the back of the room anymore,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, I want to show that there’s a way that this is supposed to be done, but we don’t do it.” Leadership is one way Reeves feels he can con- tribute to Washington County.

“At the end of the day, true leadership is what I will offer. We haven’t had somebody currently through the Covid mess that was ahead of anything or even with anything. They waited for Sullivan County and then followed their lead,” he said. “They have to provide some leadership, true leadership. You’ve got to stay ahead of things, especially if you’re responsible, admitting that you make a mistake, that’s part of leadership.”

Reeves also added that a lack of leadership in the county is one reason why he wants to run for mayor.

“I see that we don’t, and I know that we don’t treat every citizen the same, and to try to do that is a huge responsibility,” he said.

“Then with taxes, I don’t run the sheriff’s department, I don’t (run) the clerk’s office; they come to me and they’ve got to have money for something, I’ve got to find it; that’s my job. And if I can’t I’ve got to raise taxes a little bit. I’ve seen where raising taxes has to happen sometimes.

In addition to leadership, Reeves feels that the compassion he has for his county and the people will also benefit the office of mayor.

“I’m compassionate and generally down to earth, but I’m not afraid to take on a challenge,” he said. “And I hope the people of Washington County see that I can be that leader they need.”

MAYOR ELECTION 2022 – ROBBIE TESTER

By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]

Being a part of the Washington County Commission for the past eight years, Republican Robbie Tester has made the decision to use his experience to seek to serve as mayor.

“I look at it as, I ran for county commission as a concerned citizen. I knocked on a whole bunch of doors in 2014 and got elected and got re-elected in 2018,” Tester said. “Since 2018,

I have served as chairman of our rules committee and vice-chairman of our commercial, industrial and agricultural committee. And I’ve tried to serve diligently and treat others with respect even when we disagreed.” Tester added that being a part of the commission has been a really rewarding, a good learning experience and he feels he has been able to make a positive difference in that position.

“As far as running for mayor, I’m a concerned citizen trying to make a positive difference,” he said. “I feel strongly that elected positions are called public service for a reason. And I believe government should work for the people, not the other way around. To me leadership should mean service.

“I look at these positions as, people should seek them and serve in them in order to serve the public. To me that’s the purpose of representation. I care about people, and I have a heart for service I’m passionate about good government. I love Washington County, it’s my home; I was born here.”

Tester, a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Tennessee, has a degree in civil engineering with minors in environmental engineering and business administration.

“As an engineer, I’ve gotten training and experience work- ing with complex problems and looking for efficient, simple cost-effective solutions,” he said. “Being an engineer, I am left-brained and organized thinking. And I feel what makes good government is the process of government. It’s open and transparent and thoughtful, the way decisions are made and the way it interacts with citizens.”

Additionally, Tester has been emphasizing citizen engagement throughout his campaign.

“Ever since I was elected to county commission, I’ve made a point most any time someone contacts me about an issue with county commission, I really try to encourage people that we can make a difference and to en- courage people to be involved and informed,” he said. “I think that my professional experience would serve me well if elected to the position of county mayor.

“I also think that my strong convictions about good government and the principles that made our country great, our government should stick to those. Small, limited government, freedom and personal responsibility; I think that if a government is small and held to what it should be doing, that provides the most freedom and opportunity for us as citizens.”

Tester said that there are four things he has been focusing on as he has grown his campaign.

“The first one is engagement of citizens and the second is protecting the God-given rights of citizens. One of the things that would differentiate me from the other candidate in this race is the stay-at-home order that (the current mayor) is- sued,” Tester said. “I know that

COVID is a sensitive issue and a tragic thing, but I’ve got some issues with how our government has responded to COVID. I think our executive orders are meant for executive branch employees, not the entire population. And the executive branch is not supposed to make laws in America, the legislative branch does that.

If I am elected to this position, you won’t see a stay-at- home order like that from me.

“Another thing I’ve been talking about is efficient services. I want our government to provide the kind of services citizens expect, as efficiently and fiscally conservatively as possible. But I think we need to pay a little more attention to limiting our spending and try to live within our means. I feel like there’s a lot of focus on revenue and how do we get more revenue and we don’t fo- cus that much on the spending side, which is where I think we have more control. My record is very consistent and conservative on having less long-term debt.”

In addition to orders and long-term debt, Tester also feels that communication should be addressed across the board.

“We have had some issues with communication this term. That’s actually been one of our commission goals, to improve communication goals internally and externally. With citizens but also internally between department heads, office holders and employees,” he said. “No one person really makes all the decisions, so the communication and the relationship between the mayor and the county commission is very important.”

Tester also promises that if he is elected, he will personally reach out to each county com- missioner at least once a month to check in with them. All 15 of them, regardless of party, personality or vote, will have an open line of communication for everyone to work together to serve the people and strive to work well with all other county officials.

“I just love Washington County. The church we go to, my great-grandfather helped start it over 70 years ago, both sides of my family are here. It’s just home,” he said. “I think I’m a hard-working, intelligent person that cares about people. I have a heart for service and I’m a concerned citizen trying to make a positive difference. And if anyone wants to know more about me or may campaign, they can visit my website at testerformayor.com.”