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County taps general sessions judge, new commissioner


Staff Writer

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After the Washington County Commission’s Monday, Oct. 26 meeting, the county officially has a general sessions court judge and a new District 7 commissioner.

The commission unanimously voted for Janet Vest Hardin to take the county’s general sessions court judgeship after her appointment to the position by Gov. Bill Lee in August. Lee appointed Hardin after James Nidiffer took leave from the seat due to illness. Nidiffer later passed away on Sept. 7.

“When the governor appointed me I was humbled,” Hardin said to the commission with emotion in her voice. “But I am extraordinarily honored by your confidence in me tonight.”

Top, Janet Vest Hardin thanks the commission on Monday night. Larry Cate speaks to the commission ahead of his appointment. (Photos by Marina Waters)

The District 7 commission seat left vacant by Larry England, who moved out of the district, was filled by Larry Cate who received a majority vote from the commissioner Monday night. The other vacant seat left by Gary McAllister, who also moved from his district, will be filled through the Nov. 3 election. Kenneth Huffine is the lone name on the ballot for the District 13 seat.

Cate, who has lived in Johnson City for 43 years, is a retired banker who worked for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and also worked as a banker and an auditor. Cate was nominated by Commissioner Phil Carriger.  

“His integrity is impeccable,” Carriger said. “He’s a man of his word. He’s been active in the community for years … Larry knows a lot of the businesses in this town. He’s helped a lot of businesses get started in Washington County. I can’t think of a better person to serve on our commission than Mr. Larry Cate.”

A nomination for the seat was also made by Jerome Fitzgerald, who nominated Scott Holly, a local businessman who is also a former Washington County Constable. Meanwhile, Commissioner Freddie Malone nominated David Alligood, the senior financial analyst for Ballad Health. 

During the first round, Holly received five votes, Alligood received four and Cate received four. Per state law, a second round of voting is conducted when there is no majority winner. During the second round, Cate received the majority seven votes, Holly received five and Alligood received one.

Though voting took up a majority of the meeting, funds allocated for Washington County School projects also took centerstage.

The commission approved $2.2 million for the Daniel Boone High School roof replacement, $742,000 for Gray Elementary School exterior brick repair, $640,000 of previously budgeted funds for the purchase of school technology items, $558,000 for the purchase six propane school buses and $280,000 for door hardware and control upgrades at Fall Branch and Sulphur Springs schools.

The commission also approved a resolution for the Washington County Highway Department to pave an athletic track at the new Boones Creek Athletic Facility.

The resolution had a blank space where the dollar amount would be filled in. When asked about the blank amount, Mayor Joe Grandy said the project was set not to exceed $168,000.

“We are still working on the exact number,” Grandy told the commission, “but we do have a figure more of less not to exceed which is $168,000.”

Commissioner Jodi Jones asked if the paving project dollars would come from the $3.1 million allocated for the whole of the athletic facilities in Boones Creek. Grandy said it would, in addition to the $800,000 the commission approved phase one of the project in July of 2019.

“(The paving amount) is part of the $3.1 million,” Grandy said. “The $800,000 for grading and site development has been passed. 

“What you have to date is infrastructure, a lot of additional stormwater management, water and sewer, electrical, and all the rough-in utilities required to finish the project.”

The county will hold its committee meetings on Thursday, Nov. 5. The next full commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 23. The county’s full calendar of meetings can be found at