Republican County Commission Candidates Participate in Forum | News

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Republican candidates for the Williamson County Commission from Districts 1, 10 and 11 participated Thursday in a forum hosted by the Williamson County Republican Career Women, Williamson County Republican Women and the Williamson County Republican Party .

Richard Davis hosted the event. Tom Lawrence with WAKM AM950 and Derby Jones of the Williamson Herald made up the media panel and asked questions.

Each candidate had one minute to make an opening statement and two minutes for closing comments.

Candidates in attendance were District 1’s Lisa Lenox, District 10’s Meghan Guffee (incumbent), David Landrum (incumbent), and Bradley Diaz; and Sean R. Aiello (incumbent), Brian Beathard (incumbent), and Charles Wayne Garrett of District 11.

Topics of the questions ranged from the specifics of each candidate’s PAC support, the county commission’s role in public education, county debt, growth and improving infrastructure.

Political Action Committee Endorsements: Williamson Families

The first question candidates answered was about ties to the PAC Williamson families.

Last year, the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty (MFL) launched the organization, and MFL President Robin Steenman leads it. The Williamson families have publicly endorsed Lenox, Diaz and Garrett.

“I’m proudly endorsed by them,” Garret said. “As mentioned, we sat down and had very serious conversations about who I am and what I stand for, and I think the people who make up the PAC in terms of leadership are very family-oriented people. and on God with whom I am proud to be associated. »

Lenox and Diaz echoed Garrett’s sentiments.

Landrum and Guffee shared that they received endorsements from the Sargent Legacy Fund. The fund is named after the late Rep. Charles Sargent, a longtime Williamson County legislator and former Speaker of the State House.

Beathard and Aiello questioned the process of screening and vetting the Williamson families for nominations.

“I am also a conservative Christian with family values, so I would have liked the chance to have coffee with some of the leaders of [Williamson Families and Moms for Liberty]”Beathard said. “They seem to have gone straight to tribalism and gone straight to ‘the other side is bad, and we’re the only good side’, and that created a crossroads for this election, I think the Voters will have to choose between: the way Williamson County has been run or those who want to make some pretty big changes.

Aiello said he has “concerns” about the Williamson families’ vetting process, especially since Williamson families-endorsed Williamson County Juvenile Court judge candidate Connie Reguli recently was convicted of multiple crimes in a missing child case in 2018. Williamson Families has since withdrawn its support and rescinded its endorsement of Reguli.

In a tweet Thursday afternoon, Williamson Families called on Reguli to pull out of the race.

Role of the county commission in public education

Asked about the responsibilities of being a county commissioner and how it relates to county school board policy, the candidates resoundingly said that they were primarily responsible for approving the board’s budget.

“I think it would be great to have a close partnership with our school board members because obviously we represent our district; we should partner on that,” Lenox said. “County commissioners don’t oversee the day-to-day operations of schools, but we do influence county budgets and how we fund those schools. So I think it’s very important to have that partnership so that we know if they need additional funding, what that’s for, and how I can partner with my school board member in my district to get there and also understand the needs of the greater county. ”

Many echoed Lenox’s statement, but some clarified that they would remain vocal on school board issues even though they had no decision-making power over the details of school policies.

“As commissioner I have certain responsibilities, but as a taxpayer and a resident I have things on my heart, and you will hear me talk about them, whether on campaign or in this forum,” said Garrett.

Sixty-five percent of Williamson County’s budget goes to its schools. Guffee said it was critical to continue prioritizing education needs in the county.

“In our Williamson County story, we’ve had incredible leaders who have focused on how much of the county budget they want to allocate to schools, and they’ve focused on prioritizing the needs of our schools in our community,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to be fiscally prudent in order to continue the great work of the leaders who came before us.”

County debt

The county will likely end fiscal 2022 with a total debt of approximately $935,440,000. Candidates were asked how/if they would take steps to mitigate it.

Incumbents and newcomers were partly divided on the issue.

Landrum said the debt was seen as a bigger problem than it was. He added that most of the debt came from building new schools to keep up with the county’s rapid growth.

“It’s really important that we pay attention to this money, but we’re paying it back,” he said. “You hear a lot of stories about us borrowing too much money, but we can do it with a AAA bond rating. We do it for as short a time as possible — the life expectancy of the [constructed] school is longer than the amount of time we borrowed the money, and we always pay it back. We have maintained our AAA rating throughout the process, and it is always scrutinized very carefully. »

Diaz agreed with the premise of Landrum’s comments, but argued that more could potentially be done to reduce debt.

“As someone in the construction industry, I can tell you the costs have skyrocketed, so I understand all of that; however, I think it’s more than just a need for new schools,” he said. “I think we need to take a magnifying glass for the budget, go through it and see what can be cut and what can be reduced.”

Aiello deconstructed the specifics of the debt and spoke out against new candidates who argued that the budget needed to be analyzed more closely.

“Of [the debt], $591,326,000 is solely related to schools/school construction; $237,440,000 is the county; the rest, the $145,370,000, is self-sustaining debt. This means that county taxpayers do not pay this debt service. This is paid for from the profits of the hospitals or other income-generating assets that incurred this debt,” he said. “It was mentioned tonight that ‘once I take office I’ll check the budget, we’ll comb through’…but I have to say I’m on the budget committee this year, we’ve had six open meetings, and I didn’t see Mr. Garrett, Ms. Lenox, or Mr. Diaz at any of those meetings.

County growth and infrastructure

Candidates agreed that the county’s rapid population growth and its impact on residents was a significant issue. Most suggested increased communication with municipalities to better plan for more residents.

“The county is zoned such that there is one house per 5 acres, instead of one house per 1 acre,” Beathard said. “What I think smart growth is going to mean in the future is that the commission is working with the municipalities in our county. They have their own planning commissions, their own building standards. They don’t have to follow one house per 5 acres, and I expect to work closely with them so that they understand the impact on the county when a new subdivision comes along that requires us to build new schools, new roads, and as we mentioned before, all departments need to manage this growth I think smart growth for the future, and what I’m dedicated to is working with municipalities to make sure we’re all on the same length of wave.

Lenox and Diaz added to Beathard’s statement.

“I think there needs to be partnerships with municipalities to look at, you know, what their growth plans are and how can we as county commissioners help influence maybe some measured growth,” said Lenox. “When [municipalities] are… having a neighborhood developed by a developer, what have been the issues in the past that have caused infrastructure issues, and how can we look ahead and have a plan for the future so that we can avoid some of these incidents? »

“The land use plan we have in place for the county is quite good; the problem is that he has no teeth, and just like [other candidates] said, you have to have communication between the different entities that make these decisions by putting regulations in place to protect what makes Williamson County so beautiful,” Diaz said.

Early voting for the May 3 Williamson County primary will continue until April 28. www.williamsoncounty-tn.gov/40/Election-Commission for more information on voting.

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