By SERINA MARSHALL
Staff Writer [email protected]
For the past four years, Joe Grandy has been the mayor of Washington County, and he is trying to make that eight.
“My background is really business management and leadership. That’s what I believe I bring to the roll of mayor, is a person with a proven track record of experienced leadership and management,” he said. “I began political stuff as a county commissioner in 2010 when I ran because I felt like the county had engaged in long-term debt where they weren’t even paying the principle, just interest only. So, I started two terms as a county commissioner.” Grandy adds that as far as career politicians go, he doesn’t feel like they should be an option.
“I don’t believe in career politicians, and I don’t believe in serving long term, so I said I would serve once or twice as a county commissioner, which I did,” he said. “Then after that, the current mayor elected not to run again, and I was asked to step up and run for mayor and I did in 2018. So, I served three and a half years as mayor of Washington County, so I’m seeking this election for more than one term.”
The decision to run again came from the onset of a pandemic in the middle of his term.
“In the past four years we were short circuited by this virus. And a number of projects that I had some interest
in didn’t get put on hold, but they did get slowed down a lot,” he said. “I think that a number of these projects that we’ve been able to initiate, I would like to see a little bit more towards the completion.”
One of these projects is the completion of a new school for the county.
“The Jonesborough school is a prime example. It’s a
very important project to me personally, a very important project for our community and we’ve got a great start and we’ve got a great plan,” said Grandy. “There’s been a lot of progress on that project, even with the challenges of Covid. The design team met remote- ly; I was part of that. And we got the groundwork started at the appropriate time and the construction is well underway. I’m anxious to see that project through to completion.”
Grandy added that the de- sire to further educational opportunities in the county also is what drives the decision to see the projects through.
“It’s hard to believe three years ago in March, we took a team down to Nashville to meet with the governor to pitch the idea of a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) satellite in Washington County utilizing the former Boones Creek Elementary School site,” he said. “That property has now been made available to the Tennessee Board and is going to become a satellite of the Elizabethton TCAT.
“It’s great. It provides and outstanding opportunity for our young people in Washing- ton County as well as adult learners. The plan is to begin construction-related courses there, whether it be carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing or HVAC. Using the middle college concept, we will be able to offer courses to our
high school juniors and seniors so that when they graduate from high school, if they choose to, they can have two years’ experience and train- ing and are ready to go into the job market immediately. It’s an amazing head start for these kids.”
Grandy said that the TCAT site is poised and ready to
go and is ready for classes hopefully to start summer or fall of 2022.
“It’s going to help so many kids. In Washington County, we graduate 200 or more students every year. They graduate, they get their diploma, but they don’t seek additional post-secondary education,” he explained. “If we can give a percentage of those students an opportunity for a career right out of school where they can go out and they can make a significant living, then that’s just an awesome opportunity.”
Through his time as mayor and his business career, Grandy said he has been richly blessed with support from the community.
“I just really wanted to give back. I’ve been president of Rotary, I’ve been in charge of other community organizations, boards and a number of things, but there’s nothing like being part of leadership in the community, setting the course and creating a vision and planning for the future,” he said. “Creating a vision and a plan that is long term is what I have done through my entire career. And what I thought I could bring to local government as well, so we weren’t just looking in little, short spurts, that we were looking down the road. So, we created capital project plans, so we plan for future expenditures.
“We plan in a way that is forward looking and future focused so that we’re able
to accomplish the mission
and accomplish the mission without having to borrow a lot of money.”
Leadership is a focus that Grandy feels is very important to the roll of mayor in Washington County.
“Leadership is important. Stewardship is important. And so, I put those together. Leadership means stewardship. That is a slogan I’ve used during my time in office,” he said. “Growth is important. Growth at a controlled pace is maybe even more important.”
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 conser- vative 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 depart- ment 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.”
“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. Do I want to?No.WillI give you all the reasons why I am? You’re darn right I will.”
In addition to leader- ship, 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.”