By MARINA WATERS
At the Washington County Commission’s January meeting, Phil Carriger cast his first vote as the newest county commissioner on a resolution to aid the clean water issue many have been facing in the county. For Carriger, it’s these local government issues that put his new role with the commission in perspective.
“It’s hard to believe in this day and time that we’ve got folks in Washington County that don’t have clean water,” Carriger said. “It puts things in perspective. You see all these crazy issues up in D.C. where they’re spending billions of dollars. It really comes back down to earth when you’re local and people are in need of clean drinking water.”
Carriger stepped in to fill a spot left vacant by Joe Wise who is now part of the Johnson City Commission. But the new county commissioner isn’t new to local government; Carriger was on the Johnson City Commission for four years. He also ran for a Tennessee House of Representatives spot for District 7 back in 2014.
“When I was on the city commission, I think I got a good idea of how government works,” Carriger said. “And having been in the business world for 45 plus years, there’s a different pace and a different way business is conducted. I got a good understanding as to why government work takes a little bit longer and is a much slower pace than the business world. It gave me a good idea of the relationship between government, business and the voters.”
Carriger is a retired banker who started People’s Bank and was a Bank of Tennessee board member. He has also served on the East Tennessee State University Research Foundation board of directors and the Johnson City Power Board board of directors. And he considers his combined experiences the right recipe to understand business, government and the people.
“One thing I’m proud of it that I served as president or chairman of the board for a lot of nonprofits,” Carriger said. “I think that has helped me also to get a good understanding of some of the needs in our community. I think having served as the past chairman of the Chamber of Commerce has gotten me a good understanding of the business. I’ve got a pretty good background when it comes to knowing people and knowing some of the issues.”
After experiencing the business and government sides of the professional world, Carriger is now ready to concentrate on his top priority in his new role. He also said aiming to create jobs and improve educational facilities allows a body like the county commission to invest in the future.
“It’s gotta be jobs. I know education is important—I’m a product of Washington County education and the State of Tennessee education—but it’s gotta be jobs,” Carriger said. “It doesn’t do us a whole lot of good if we educate these young folks and they end up going away for jobs. We’ve got to have some good paying jobs here.”
Apart from keeping well-educated adults in the Washington County area, Carriger also said he is interested in the other part of local government—the people.
“I’m always amazed; I talked to some folks in the city and they don’t realize they can vote on county issues,” Carriger said. “They have a county commissioner. They have some say in county government. It’s just amazing to me that they pay county taxes, but they don’t realize they have a say in county government. County government affects them.
“People don’t realize you have a lot more control over local government than you do D.C. You think about it, you’ve got a lot more influence with local government than you do with what goes on in Washington D.C.”
Throughout his time as a banker and local government office-holder, Carriger also considers the time he’s spent with the people of Washington County an integral piece to the puzzle of his career.
“You get to meet some folks that have a lot of influence over politics and then you get to meet some who have very little or no influence on politics,” Carriger said.
“It’s always good to be able to help those folks that feel like they don’t have a voice.”