Note: This story was last updated at 10:35 a.m.
Today, August 2, is Election Day in Anderson County. The election includes the Anderson County general election and state and federal primary elections.
It’s the second of three elections this year. The first was the county primary election on May 1, and the last is the municipal election and state and federal elections on November 6.
Here are notes about Anderson County candidates in today’s county general election from a forum at Oak Ridge High School in July. The county general election includes selections for mayor, sheriff, county commission, trustee, circuit court clerk, county clerk, register of deeds, road superintendent, and school board, among other positions. Some of the candidates have no opposition.
Anderson County Sheriff
Two candidates: Russell Barker, a Republican, and Mark Lucas, a Democrat
Barker said he has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is a former Marine. He said he has a three-step plan to fight the drug epidemic and wants to work on school safety programs and to protect seniors. He has been a director of the Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force in Anderson County and works for the Clinton Police Department, where he is a detective sergeant.
Lucas has been chief deputy of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department since 1978, overseeing the jail, 911 center, and patrols, among other duties, and he has worked in law enforcement since 1978. “I have the experience and knowledge to be a successful sheriff,” Lucas said.
Both advocated for protecting children, including while at school.
The Sheriff’s Department worked with the Anderson County School Board to increase the number of school resource officers—a critical position—from eight to 10 this year, Lucas said. One of the biggest staffing challenges right now, he said, is making sure the jail is adequately staffed.
Barker advocated for some staffing re-allocations, and he said it might not be possible to put a school resource officer in every school, but the county can strive for it.
Among other issues, the two discussed ways to reduce recidivism, trying to keep people from committing new crimes and going back to jail.
Barker said the county needs to do more than lock people up. He talked about treatment and other methods and techniques, including teaching people skills.
Lucas said there has been an alternatives to incarceration program in place for a number of years, and the director loves what she does. Drug addiction is tied to crime, Lucas said, and the county should offer help, including through GED classes, job placement, anger management, and faith-based groups.
Circuit Court Clerk
Three candidates. One, Rex Lynch, is a Republican on the ballot. The other two—Robbie Fulton and Alden Souza—are write-in candidates.
Lynch, a former Anderson County mayor and current court employee, cited what he called high turnover and a hostile work environment in the Circuit Court Clerk’s office now and a need to address record-keeping issues. He advocated for having probable cause clerks available 24 hours a day seven days per week to sign warrants and affidavits for police officers and deputies outside normal business hours, and working on a community service program for indigent residents who can’t pay fines.
Fulton is a Republican businessman who has worked for Fulton’s TV and Appliances and as owner and operator of All Pro Supply. He entered the race before the May 1 primary, saying the race was an embarrassment to many people in the county because one candidate, incumbent William Jones, who lost the May 1 primary, has been accused of terrible things while in office, and the other, Lynch, had to resign in disgrace while mayor.
After the May 1 primary, Lynch, who entered a plea agreement and resigned as mayor seven years ago over a case involving sales tax fraud and fraud, said he has admitted his mistake and asked forgiveness from others, including his church, wife, and family.
Both Lynch and Fulton advocated for having the Anderson County General Sessions Court, Division II, in Oak Ridge.
The third candidate, Souza, a Democrat, was not at the July forum, but he has previously said he is co-manager of Norris Community Library Youth Programming and Summer Reading program, and he manages the library’s 10,000-item collection.
Write-in candidates don’t appear on the ballot, but they have to fill out an affidavit saying they want their votes to be counted.
The July forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Oak Ridge.
Anderson County Commission, District 6 (Oak Ridge City Hall, Robertsville, West Hills precincts)
Three candidates: Anthony Allen, Catherine Denenberg, and Steve Mead. This is a non-partisan race. You select two candidates.
Denenberg and Mead both currently serve on the County Commission. Mead is running for re-election after being elected before, while Denenberg was appointed after former County Commissioner Whitey Hitchcock resigned in January.
Mead cited his experience, military career, formal education, and work at U.S. Department of Energy facilities in Oak Ridge, including K-25, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Y-12.
They were asked about tax increment financing, or TIFs, which have been used for retail projects in Oak Ridge. A TIF uses new property tax revenues generated at a site to help pay for development costs.
Mead said the tool is a good way to get large investments to the county, and the property continues to pay the same taxes. It’s a relatively new incentive in Anderson County, he said.
Denenberg said she supports TIFs in order to attract businesses like the Panera built on South Illinois Avenue. It’s often one way to attract those types of businesses, she said.
Allen said he supports TIFs, but is more in favor of evaluating them on a case-by-case basis.
The three were asked about a recent pay raise for county employees. There was no tax increase in this year’s budget.
Denenberg, who is on the Budget Committee, said she voted for the salary increase and most of the money went to “those at the bottom.”
The county was able to find money available, Mead said. “Our people were falling behind,” he said.
Allen said he supports a pay raise, but it has to be merit-based and citizens should have a “say-so.”
Anderson County Commission, District 7 (Highland View, Pine Valley, Glenwood precincts)
Three candidates: Jimmy Bouchard, Jerry Creasey, and Theresa Scott. This is a non-partisan race. You select two candidates.
Creasey, who cited his experience, and Scott, who cited her dedication and ability to attend every meeting, both currently serve on the County Commission. Both are running for re-election.
Bouchard, meanwhile, cited his willingness to “roll up sleeves and take a seat at the table.”
The District 7 candidates were also asked about TIFs. Scott said she shops local, and TIFs encourage others to shop here, and they encourage “big boxes” to locate here.
At one time, he was reluctant to support TIFs, Creasey said, and he was criticized for that. They’re universal now, Creasey said, and they are needed to welcome new businesses, a “necessary evil.”
Bouchard said TIFs are not “one-offs” and can lower credit scores, and some projects have gone “belly up.” They can also hurt existing industry, Bouchard said.
The three candidates were also asked about the possibility of increasing taxes to make schools safer.
Creasey said schools resource officers, or SROs, are very important, and schools have been very proactive. He’s both supported and opposed tax increases in the past, Creasey said. He would support a tax increase to protect children.
Scott said a tax increase for children may be needed, but she also cited the possibility of state help. The state is looking at ways to put SROs in every school, Scott said.
Bouchard said he would support a tax increase, but he doesn’t think that SROs are the only way. SROs are not preventive but are reactive, and he would rely on other people and experts, Bouchard said.
All three candidates agreed that Anderson County EMS (Emergency Medical Services), which has had some funding or financial issues, is the number one priority for the county.
Note: Anderson County Commission District 8 is also in Oak Ridge, and it includes the Emory Valley, Woodland, and Hendrix Creek precincts. The two incumbent commissioners, Bob Smallridge and Phil Yager, do not have any opposition in the August 2 election.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See a list of candidates here.
See the sample ballot here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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