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GOP hopefuls stump in Farragut

Renovating buildings for educational use, if not building new structures, was a common advocacy for three of five legislative or judicial candidates seeking to represent Knox County who spoke to Concord-Farragut Republican Club.

The other two focused upon battling legal issues in the best interest of voters.

“On this end of the county we have people growing by leaps and bounds and our classrooms are looking like this room,” said Dr. Richard “Bud” Armstrong, District 8 commissioner whose seeking KCC At-large Seat 11, during his address to club members and other local GOP officials inside a packed room in Seasons Cafe Thursday night, Feb. 4.

Armstrong’s current district seat is one of eight being dissolved followed a November 2008 referendum vote reducing Commission from 19 to 11.

“We have facilities in our educational system that are collapsing around our ears,” said Armstrong, an attorney.

State Sen. Tim Burchett [R-District 7], who has served in the Tennessee General Assembly 16 years — the last 12 as senator — is a GOP primary candidate for Knox County mayor who spoke.

His GOP primary opponent, former Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison, attended but did not speak.

Also speaking were Judge Patricia Long, seeking re-election as Knox County General Sessions Court Judge Division III; Ron Leadbetter, a retired lawyer seeking Burchett’s senate seat, and District 4 Commissioner Ed Shouse, also facing Armstrong’s plight and seeking At-Large Seat 11.

Burchett said education and law enforcement, in that order, are “the two largest issues in the financial wherewithal of this county.”

As for examples, “I see a huge building on Gay Street, probably one of the most valuable pieces of property on Gay Street, which is where the school administration, or bureaucracy, is housed,” Burchett said, adding he would “sell that piece of property” and use what he estimated at “$5 to $7 million” to renovate dilapidated schools.

“If these schools that we put our kids in that have leaking roofs and cramped quarters are good enough for our kids, then they’re good enough for our bureaucrats and our administration,” Burchett added. “I think we’re poor stewards of our resources.”

Computer-age micro-storage options render the county’s physical storage space worthy of being sold off and reinvested into education, Burchett said, adding, “We have several pieces of property throughout the county that are occupied by things like records.”

Long, who is finishing an unexpired term beginning Sept. 22, 2008, is running unopposed.

One of five Sessions Court judges in Knox County, Long said she’s “thrown out” the former Baptist Hospital complex in downtown Knoxville as a possible detoxification location for Knox County drug and alcohol addicts.

“I’m hoping that might be a good dry building one day, but I’m not a bureaucrat,” she said. “I just hope one day that there’s a place soon ... It will save us money in the long term if we can keep from shuffling those people through the system.

“People who aren’t mean, they’re just addicts, and you can’t get them stabilized,” Long added.

Leadbetter attempts to bounce back after a failed state Representative bid in 2008 from 18th District.

Former associate general counsel with The University of Tennessee system before retiring in 2008, Leadbetter recalled his state legislative work in that capacity.

“I presented regulations, a lot of which I authored, from a conservative viewpoint,” he said. “Went over to the legislature and argued why the legislature — the government operations committee in particular — ought to improve those regulations.

“We did it successfully with one exception. If you want to get things done, you have to work with governmental agencies,” Leadbetter added. “I have a lot of experience doing that.”

Shouse stated his opposition of reducing commission from its current 19-seat status to 11, and supports legal action to reverse the “illegal” referendum.

“There were four issues on that ballot initiative, state law says there should be one,” he said. “State law says county employees can serve on county commission, Referendum No. 3 says they can’t. [There’s] a couple other discrepancies in there.

“I think the citizens of [Knox County] would be better served if they had 19 commissioners instead of 11,” Shouse added.

County Primary Election day is Tuesday, May 4 (voting from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.). Early voting runs April 14-29.

County General Election (state/federal primary) day is Thursday, Aug. 5.


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