Even though their names won’t appear on the same ballot until August, Republican Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain and Independent challenger Nigel Reid II faced each other at the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at Walter State Community College’s International Lyceum.
Following the format outlined, the two men each had two minutes to speak to the large crowd, and then each answered a trio of questions and, finally, were allowed closing remarks. Brittain told the crowd how his 16 years as County Trustee gave him a unique perspective as county mayor. “Because I’d been a department head in another department in county government, I could take those lessons learned and apply them on a broader scale,” he said.
He said much of the job is fostering positive working relationships with other elected officials on multiple levels
“I have those good working relationships with all the other elected officials. We trust each other because we respect each other. By working together over the last four years county government has been willing to address some of the more difficult issues instead of ignoring them and we’ve been able to make progress.”
As a former county trustee, Brittain said he is pleased with the county’s financial status.
“During an election cycle you hear a lot of negatives, but I can tell you this: Hamblen County is sound financially,” he said. “We have a large reserve. Our debt is low. Our credit is good. People look to Hamblen County as a leader. Not only in its finances but in its work creating a solid financial base, not just for Hamblen County but also in the entire Lakeway region.”
Reid said that while he’d keep his comments short, he’s is making himself available to the people of Hamblen County.
“I’m here for you guys,” he told the crowd. “To hear the voice of anyone that has any concern of anything going on with politics, government and our system here. If I’m elected, I promise that I will keep … an open door policy for anyone that’s concerned for anything.”
Reid said the community needs a jail designed for 21st century needs, a community center and a drug rehabilitation center.
“I personally believe that anyone who steals taxpayers’ money should be in prison,” he said.
He added that the school system should pay more attention to special needs students and help them achieve their goals.
“Hear their voice and hear their concerns,” he said.
When asked about the situation at the animal shelter, which is managed by the county’s Humane Society, Reid said the first thing needed is a new facility where the animals can be taken care of in proper fashion.
Brittain, who with Morristown Mayor Danny Thomas, created a committee to examine the shelter situation after several issues arose, including an employee possibly embezzling funds, the loss of non-profit status and the lapse of workers compensation insurance that was discovered when an employee was bitten.
Brittain said the issue is bigger even than that handful of complaints.
Ultimately, Brittain said, he thinks the commission will grant the humane society a year to get the various situations worked out, but the board must function in a way as to meet the standard expected of agencies receiving taxpayer dollars.
“Yes, I think giving another year is OK,” Brittain said. “But I think all the agencies that have county funds and city funds need to understand that they need to manage those funds responsibly.”