Note: This story was updated at 11:25 p.m.
CLINTON—A candidate for Anderson County Commission has proposed drug testing for county commissioners and other elected officials.
“They should be sober-minded,” said Lynn Byrge, one of four candidates for two seats in District 5, which includes Marlow, Dutch Valley, and Oliver Springs. The incumbents are Jerry White and Robert McKamey. Carl D. Beaty is also running.
Byrge made the proposal during a Monday morning Anderson County Commission meeting in Clinton.
“I think that’s appropriate not only for county commissioners, but for all elected officials,” Byrge said.
He said he got the idea from Michael Farley, a candidate for Anderson County chancellor, who proposed drug testing in that race.
“If the chancellor can do it, why not other elected officials?” Byrge said.
Byrge said each candidate should pay for their drug test, but he’s willing to pick up the tab for any candidate who can’t afford it. He said he didn’t get much of a reaction from commissioners when he proposed the idea on Monday.
Byrge said he hasn’t proposed the idea to other candidates yet.
After the meeting, Anderson County Commissioner Steve Mead of Oak Ridge said he supports the idea of drug testing candidates and elected officials, although he doesn’t think the county has the legal authority to make it a requirement.
Mead said he’s been subject to unannounced drug tests for several decades, both in the U.S. Navy and at three U.S. Department of Energy sites in Oak Ridge: the former K-25 plant, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Y-12 National Security Complex.
“I think it is a good idea to show that the people are clean and sober,” Mead said.
Farley said he had recently proposed the drug testing for the three Republican candidates for Anderson County chancellor. He said he wasn’t trying to catch anybody, but he wanted voters to know that all the candidates are drug-free.
“I was expecting everybody to pass,” Farley said.
Also, Tennessee Sen. Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, had proposed drug testing judges after former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was disgraced by drug use on the bench, Farley said.
He said he and another Republican candidate, Phil Harber, met for the drug testing at Park Med in Oak Ridge. Farley said he paid for Harber’s test, and the third GOP candidate, Nicki Cantrell, took her drug test elsewhere.
“I think that all candidates ought to do it,” Farley said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.