By MARINA WATERS
The race is officially underway.
The 2018 election for the Washington County Mayor, made vacant by current Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s decision not to run for re-election, is officially on.
Four candidates have thrown their name in the race. Republican candidates will face off in the county primary set for May 1, with early voting to begin on Wednesday April 11. The general election is scheduled for Aug. 2.
In gearing up for the election, the Herald & Tribune spent time learning about each candidate:
Mark Ferguson (Republican)
Mark Ferguson could be returning to the commission — but this time as county mayor.
Ferguson was a county commissioner from 2006 to 2010. He also owns multiple properties and businesses such as Mark’s Car Wash in Johnson City, Gray and Jonesborough and Mark’s Self-Storage.
Now, after the 40-cent tax increase in Washington County, Ferguson says he’s ready to bring a conservative mindset as county mayor.
“We just went through the highest tax increase in Washington County,” Ferguson said. “I just think I’m a little more conservative than what we have. I’d like to have all of our services second to none. We need to do it in a conservative way so we don’t put anymore of a burden on the tax payers than what we’ve put.”
Ferguson also told the Herald & Tribune that if he’s elected, he wants to serve as a mayor for city citizens as well.
“When you look at what’s happened in the last two years or so in Washington County, you’d think Johnson City is not a part of the county,” Ferguson said. “I thought I missed something so I checked on it and Washington County goes all the way from the Greene County line in Limestone to the the Carter County line in Watauga and Johnson City’s a part of that. So I want to be a county mayor who represents the entire county and does what’s right for the entire county.”
Joe Grandy (Republican)
Washington County Commissioner Joe Grandy’s name might not be appearing as a commissioner this election, but it’s been under the mayoral candidate column since November when he made the announcement.
Grandy is a commissioner in District 6 who is currently on his second term. Grandy is also the president and generalmanager of Ferguson Enterprises Inc.
Grandy said his main concern is on the schools.
“The need going forward in the community is to continue our educational programs. I’m a big proponent of improvement in the schools and providing opportunities for our students so they can stay here,” Grandy said. “And that dovetails with the economic development component … Our existing businesses are just desperate for quality folks to come help build their business.”
Grandy also said, should he be elected, he hopes to continue the county’s debt management plan.
“It’s just critical that we have solid leadership and good, solid financial direction for Washington County,” Grandy said, “and to continue the plan that will take Washington County out of debt in the future.”
James Reeves (Independent)
James Reeves ran for mayor in 2010, but now he’s back for the 2018 election.
Reeves owns and operates Reeves Alinement and Auto Care in Johnson City and has addressed the county commission and the Washington County Board of Education on issues such as the tax increase and plans for the Jonesborough K-8 school project.
Now, Reeves is hoping to also focus on schools — namely, an increase in teacher pay.
“What I want to do ultimately is figure out how we can get teacher pay in the county close to what they pay in Johnson City,” Reeves said. “It’s never going to be more. But it shouldn’t be that far apart. There shouldn’t be that much of a discrepancy between the two.”
Like Ferguson, Reeves also said he’s concerned with being a mayor for Johnson City citizens as well as those in unincorporated areas.
“You go to these meetings and you see the lack of cooperation. It’s almost like Washington County and Johnson City are, in most things, against each other,” Reeves said. “I do believe that I can do a lot better than what’s being done, better cooperation.”
David Tomita (Republican)
David Tomita is the current Johnson City Mayor, but in the 2018 election, he’s looking to become the county mayor.
Tomita was previously a Washington County and Johnson City Commissioner until he was elected as the Johnson City Mayor in 2017.
Prior to filing to officially enter the county mayoral race, Tomita picked up the necessary papers to run for Washington County Trustee.
The Herald and Tribune reached out to Tomita, but was unable to reach the mayoral candidate.
The voter registration deadline for the county primary is set for Monday, April 2. The county primary’s early voting period runs from Wednesday, April 11 through Thursday, April 26.