EDITOR’S NOTE: David Tomita could not be reached for our earlier series on the Washington County Mayor’s race, which included articles on Republican mayoral candidates Mark Ferguson and Joe Grandy.
By MARINA WATERS
Johnson City and Washington County may be grouped into one county, but Washington County Mayoral Candidate David Tomita is hoping to bridge the gap between the municipal and unincorporated areas as the mayor in Tennessee’s oldest county. And that’s a big reason he threw his name into the ring for the mayoral role.
“I looked around at where we’re headed and how things are going and we’re at a point now where we’re going to have to work together more than ever,” Tomita said. “I think I was effective on the commission, sort of bridging that gap between the city and the county. We need that same kind of leadership at the executive level.”
Tomita is the current Johnson City Mayor and was a Johnson City Commissioner and a Washington County Commissioner for six years until he took on the city mayoral position. Following his experience as both a city and county commissioner, Tomita said, the needs of the citizens in all areas of the county are still circulating in his mind.
“There are different needs depending on where you are. If you’re out in an unincorporated area in Washington County where you don’t have water lines, sometimes expenditures that are spent in other areas in the county might look wasteful to you,” Tomita said. “There’s a different perspective throughout the county that we have to be sensitive to and we have to address.”
That perspective, the candidate said, includes that of citizens who are without access to clean water within Washington County.
“There’s 200 miles of road in Washington County that doesn’t have water. Those are the kinds of things we have to start taking a look at. We’ve started, but we’ve sort of stopped,” Tomita said. “There are a couple of projects that we voted on before I left the commission, but there’s not been a whole lot of movement there. I think that’s something we really need to focus on, getting the county up to the year 2018.”
The mayoral candidate also said the county has been focused on bricks and mortar when it comes to education, but he wants to focus on what goes on inside local schools.
Part of that plan, he said, revolves around career-readiness and vocational studies.
“I think we’re already seeing the value is shifting to a path for skilled trades rather than college and a more practical, employable graduate,” Tomita said. “Not everyone was cut out for the college track. If you get out of four years of college with $80,000 worth of debt and a sociology degree, you’re not very marketable. That’s a tough way to start. But if you can go for two years and get a practical vocational trade, that’s what employers are looking for. And the employers we’re trying to attract here need that. It all sort of works together.”
And in getting these plans to work together, Tomita said he’s also wanting to work towards economic development in the area.
“We have an exit on Interstate 81 that does not have utilities and is one of maybe two or three on the entire stretch of 81 that doesn’t have utilities, which is why it doesn’t have a truck stop, a restaurant, a convenience store,” he said. “There could be the opportunity to develop that area to generate revenue for the unincorporated area.”
Tomita admitted he has numerous areas in which he aims to be involved, but he said there isn’t one issue or focus that he’s honed in on during his campaign.
“I’ve got a vision for where we should be and how to get there. I’m not running on any particular issue or aspect,” he said.“Know where to get good council. You don’t have to be an expert. You just have to be a connector. I’m a connector and I can connect all those things to hopefully make those things happen.”
In all those interests, Tomita said he’s hoping that, above all, the area can grow and offer a place folks want to come back to and call home.
“I’m just a simple guy trying to make a place better so that my kids will come back someday and there will be opportunity for them here,” he said. “There’ll be jobs for them, good schools, a safe place to live.
“I want them to go out and experience the world, but when it comes time to raise a family, I want people to come back here. I want my kids and their peers to come back here. That’s how we grow is giving them a reason to come back.”
The last day for early voting is Thursday, April 26.