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Four candidates seek final commision seat

One Jonesborough resident and three citizens of Gray qualified last week to run for the last open seat on the Washington County Commission.
The spot became available following the resignation of Commissioner Pete Speropulos who was elected to serve the 1st District with Greg Matherly and Rick Storey, but had to resign after relocating to Sulphur Springs moved him outside district boundaries and made him ineligible.
Jonathan Griffith, an independent candidate in the Aug. 7 County Election, is throwing his hat back in for another try at representing the 1st District. “I had a lot of people say you need to run again so I’m going to,” he said.
Reducing the size of the commission and setting term limits for commissioners are two issues Griffith strongly supports. “Twenty-five people is too many,” he said, suggesting the 10 districts could be more efficiently served by 10 commissioners.
“I don’t want people making a career out of it. I’m trying to work myself out of a job and give the government back to the people,” said the Gray resident.
Griffith also believes in keeping taxes low and eliminating free insurance for county commissioners.
“One of the reasons I ran as an Independent is because a lot of the Republicans say they are conservative, but they don’t act that way when it comes to spending,” he said.
Griffith is the Tennessee/North Carolina sales and marketing representative for Permatile Concrete Products Co. in Bristol, Va.
“We need some good people on the commission,” said Lynn Hodge, also of Gray. “We had some people in the past who were not very gentlemanly, and I didn’t like that.”
After serving 30 years in the banking industry, several of them with the FDIC, Hodge retired as a commercial banker from Green Bank four years ago, which allowed him to consider the opportunity to run for office. “I’ve given it some thought for a while, but I was busy and didn’t feel like I had the time.”
Not that he is any stranger to politics. “I served on the 1971 Constitutional Convention that changed the tax code for the State of Tennessee so property is taxed according to its earning potential,” he said.
In addition, Hodge was appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to serve on a study committee that led to farmers being allowed to sell their tobacco in loose-leaf bundles, which reduced the cost of getting it to market.
Though he expects a learning curve if elected, Hodge believes his accounting background and experience would make him a valuable addition. “I would also bring leadership and the ability to look ahead,” he said. “I haven’t been appointed to those positions without having insight.”
Hodge is a Vietnam veteran and a fourth-generation farmer who lives on part of the farm his great-grandfather owned.
Scott Hyatt of Gray said he would like to see someone in the 25th commission seat who brings a common-sense approach to the table.
“I manage a shop and roll up my sleeves every day,” said Hyatt, who is the general manager of American Import Auto Repair. “I also work very closely with the owner and see how the dollars are spent.”
While he understands a business has to be lucrative, Hyatt said he sees how a tax increase can affect people and knows how to live within a budget.
“I want a responsible government, and I have a track record of working well with people in my business,” he said.
Hyatt said he has a sincere desire to help the community and the people of the 1st District who are concerned about the need for a new school and issues such as forced annexation. “I’m not your typical politician. I’m truthful in every event” he said.
As a concerned citizen, he wants to bring his perspective to the table and participate in decisions to help the county be fiscally sound. “In the last commission meeting, the mayor talked about Boones Creek Road being the highway to the future,” he said. “That’s a great vision, but who’s going to pay for it?”
Clem Wilkes believes his business experience and financial background will lend itself to helping the county develop a long-range planning strategy.
“It’s imperative that Washington County attract more good quality corporate citizens to improve the local economy,” said the Jonesborough resident. “There are many good ones that have chosen Washington County, but we need more.
Wilkes said the county is heavily dependent on the service industry and needs to diversify. “We could use more manufacturing, we could use more retail,” he said.
A financial advisor and investment management consultant with Citizens Investment Services, Inc., Wilkes said he also has benefitted from serving in the community as a member of the Mountain States Health Alliance Corporate Board, the Johnson City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the ETSU Buccaneer Scholarship Association Board.
Wilkes plans to visit neighborhoods in the 1st District to listen to what is important to the citizens. If elected, one of his goals would be to help people get past the perceived residential barriers that can exist in a split district. “I want to help people understand we’re all in this together,” he said.
He would foster that same sense of unity among members of the board. “I would represent the people well, being respectful of my fellow commissioners during times when we agree to disagree, which I feel like the commission struggled with before,” he said.
The Washington County Election Commission was scheduled to meet Sept. 16 to certify the candidates for the Nov. 4 General Election.