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Community members share campaign opinions

While a four-month series of articles has provided input from candidates seeking office in the 2014 elections, the Herald & Tribune today offers a look at the campaign from the voters’ perspective in our last issue prior to the May 6 Republican Primary.
A number of county residents shared their opinions on the characteristics of a good leader, the motives of those currently in office, impressions of the campaign season, and what they will consider when they go to the polls.
“You need good morals in any job you perform to do the right thing,” said Sam Callahan of Limestone. “When a candidate makes a promise and then does something else, it bothers you.”
A resident of Lamar who did not want to be identified said current county officials, including the Town of Jonesborough, are a bunch of crooks. “They’re in there for the money; they’re not in there for the community,” he said.
Another wondered if a person’s life experiences would impact his or her voting record related to the stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollars.
“It’s easy to spend someone else’s money,” Callahan agreed.
Accessibility is an important trait of good leaders, according to Howard Kitzmiller of Lamar. “We elect them, we shouldn’t have to make an appointment to see them,” he said, referring to directions he received when attempts were made to speak with the mayor and the sheriff.
“You have to tell the little peons what you want to tell the high sheriff.”
A two-term limit for both office holders and county commissioners would benefit everyone, said a longtime resident who requested his name not be used. “They should not be in office forever,” he said. “It needs to be a short-term thing.”
Cost of supporting the county commission was another concern, with none of the community members in favor of providing insurance.
“It’s a part-time job,” said Dallas Barnett of Telford. “Most people who work part-time don’t get insurance.”
Those taking part in the discussion also agreed a reduction in the number of commissioners is in order. “I think 13 would be plenty, and you wouldn’t have a (voting) tie,” Barnett said.
Kitzmiller agreed 13 would be an appropriate number, but another county resident who requested anonymity said he thinks a nine-member commission would be an effective size.
While a smaller commission and an end to the insurance benefits were supported by the group, no one objected to the monthly $375 stipend paid to commissioners for their service.
“I agree with ($375 per month), but no more,” Kitz-miller said. “If they don’t like it, don’t run.”
One resident said he remembers when commissioners would serve for the $2 gas reimbursement.
“They cared then,” his buddy offered as the reason.
Many questioned the negative campaign tactics, such as the mailing from the Washington County Citizens for Better Government that criticized Commissioner Mark Ferguson.
“They’re not putting that money out there for nothing,” Kitzmiller said. “It’s contractors who are wanting something.”
Another commented on an advertisement that included action taken by Mayor Dan Eldridge since assuming office. “The list is false,” he said. “He wants Washington County to be a better place.”
Though no one present had yet taken advantage of early voting, they were in favor of electing candidates whom they felt would represent all members of the community and not just certain sections.
More jobs through additions to the Industrial Park and economic development also are needed in Washington County, according to the consensus.
“I agree with the sheriff that drug dealers need to be put out of business,” added one resident.
“I’m not voting for any of the commissioners who are for insurance,” promised Kitzmiller, who said he made personal calls to candidates in his district to ask if they would be taking the insurance.
Callahan stated he was not one to follow political party lines. “I vote for the person,” he said.