Morristown City Council member Bob Garrett says he’s running for a second term to represent Ward 1, in large part, to provide political cover for City Administrator Tony Cox.
Garrett says two men he considers to be “credible individuals” told him that a move is afoot to oust Cox if the council make-up changes this election.
“I’m running for office to continue the progress the city council is making with the help of the majority of council and Tony Cox,” Garrett said. “The progress includes continuing to get the city out of the poor financial shape is was in prior to four years ago.
“With my past experience in dealing with many city administrators, Mr. Cox is as competent as any I’ve ever dealt with,” Garrett added. “If Tony were fired, it would go back to the poor financial shape it was in four years ago, and even worse.”
Garrett, who retired from Morristown Utility Systems after 42 years, says he fully supports turning management of the city’s sanitary-sewer system to the Morristown Utility Commission.
Garrett says that in Tennessee sanitary-sewer systems that are operated by utility boards “are operated considerably more efficiently and business-like than systems run by elected officials.”
The candidate’s contention is borne out by what once happened with Morristown sewer rates. The city’s sewer consultant recommended rate increases to keep the utility in the black.
Councilmembers disregarded the recommendation and set rates that did not fund the system, which resulted in a sanction letter from state officials.
By the same token, Garrett says he favors allowing the Morristown Regional Airport Commission to oversee airport operations, which removes politics from an enterprise that should be run like a business.
“That’s one of the strengths of Morristown city government,” he said.
With respect to the garbage fee, which has become a political issue this election season, Garrett says the General Assembly is considering passing legislation to require what Morristown already does – make garbage collection a self-supporting utility.
“With a separate fee, you can identify expenses and revenue properly,” said Garrett, who added he believes that eliminating the $10 monthly fee for garbage pickup would ultimately lead to higher property taxes.
He says Morristown has one of the lowest property-tax rates of any city its size in the state, and he wants to keep it that way.
“I have always taken the position to make decisions based on the best interest of the citizens of Morristown,” Garrett said.
Garrett, a U.S. Army veteran who spent four years on active duty and two years in the reserves, is married to Barbara Garrett. They have 10 grandchildren and are members of All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
He worked for a Knoxville bridge contractor and designed water and wastewater systems before accepting his long-time job at MUS.
He is a member of the Morristown Regional Planning Commission and Morristown-Hamblen Solid Waste Disposal Authority.
Garrett says he believes much of the friction between Morristown City Council members has been overplayed, and largely amounts to “theatrics.”
“The gap is just two people,” he said. “The way to bridge that gap is to elect responsible and competent councilmembers. The division has not affected the outcome of votes because the majority has always voted in the best interests of the city of Morristown.”
Having said that, Garrett says he sees little hope of mending fences between the two and the other councilmembers.
“If it was going to change, it would have changed by now,” he said.