CLINTON—Anderson County Commissioner Zach Bates on Tuesday announced he is running for Anderson County mayor in the Republican primary in May.
Bates, 25, will oppose Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank, 45, who was elected to a two-year term in August 2012, completing the unexpired term of former mayor Rex Lynch, who resigned in January 2011.
The oldest of 19 children, Bates was 21 when he was elected to the Anderson County Commission in 2010. He represents District 4, which includes Lake City and Briceville. County officials said he is the youngest mayoral candidate they can recall.
His challenge to Frank might have appeared unexpected. The two have at times appeared to be politically aligned, including, for example, on the citizen-led initiative to install “In God We Trust” signs on the Anderson County Courthouse in Clinton in July 2013.
But Bates said he is not running against the mayor.
“I am proposing to run a positive campaign, focusing on how I can benefit the Anderson County mayor’s office,” Bates said in a Tuesday afternoon campaign announcement on the courthouse steps. “I am not focusing on running against any individual. I am simply running for Anderson County mayor because I feel burdened to see honesty, integrity, and diligence executed in our government offices. I want to do the best I can to have a positive impact on our local government.”
He emphasized his ability to work with people, although it wasn’t clear if he was drawing a contrast with Frank, who has had high-profile clashes with Sheriff Paul White and Law Director Jay Yeager.
“I will always be willing to sit down with any other department, any other official, or any individual to discuss finding a way to come to positive solutions to issues that arise,” Bates said. “I cannot compromise right and wrong, but I will never let my personal preferences or politics stand in the way of making your government the best it can be.”
Identifying himself as a Christian conservative, Bates said his age “gets people’s attention,” but it can also be an attribute because he is energetic.
He declined to identify specific changes he would like to make to Anderson County government, saying he wants to keep the campaign positive. But in a campaign announcement, he said he supports smaller government, efficiently managing taxpayer dollars, and small business growth and development.
Asked for comment on Bates’ announcement, Frank said: “He’s a very nice young man, and he’s about the same age as my sons, and I would not encourage them to run for an executive office this early. I think it takes a little more management experience, life experience, and work experience.”
Commissioners are representatives, while the mayor is a manager, Frank said.
Frank said she would continue working hard to serve Anderson County residents, and she will also work hard on the campaign trail, continuing to focus on jobs and the economy. She cited a range of accomplishments during the past two years, including a fractional reduction in the property tax rate, a two-notch rating increase by Standard and Poor’s, and the county’s removal from a high-risk audit list.
“These are all good things,” said Frank, who was perhaps most closely identified with Nature’s Marketplace, her family-owned business, before she became mayor in 2012.
Several years after the Great Recession, Frank said Anderson County taxpayers still need an advocate.
“We’re not out from 2008,” she said. “We’re still in tough times.”
Bates lives on Old Dutch Valley Road in Anderson County, and he now works for his family’s tree service. He grew up in Lake City and is a member of Bible Baptist Church in Clinton. His family has frequently appeared on TLC’s reality show “19 Kids and Counting” and their own reality show, “United Bates of America.” Bates said he has served in various volunteer community outreaches including firefighter, EMS worker, sheriff’s deputy, nursing home ministries, and fund raising projects.
The Anderson County primaries are May 6. The general election is Aug. 7.
Note: This story was updated at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 22.