published Monday, April 23rd, 2012

2 trying to unseat Spring City mayor

SPRING CITY, Tenn. -- The upcoming mayoral election here could prove an intense competition, as two former city managers, one a two-time county executive, seek to thwart current Mayor Mary Sue Garrison's re-election effort.

Garrison acknowledged that she has "a tough race" ahead of her, but noted she was the city's first mayor elected by voters.

Several years ago a referendum passed with an "overwhelming response" that allowed Spring City residents to vote for the mayor, she said. Before the referendum, commissioners had decided who among themselves would serve the four-year term.

Woody Evans, who retired as Spring City manager last June, and Billy Ray Patton, a former Rhea County executive who was defeated in 2010, are trying to unseat Garrison, who has served as mayor since 2007.

Evans classified his campaign as "more conservative" than the opposing "professional politicians."

His plans include concentrating on water, sewer and road repairs "more than water parks," he said.

Garrison said she has helped with the rehabilitation of the city's water and sewer system, including a 10-mile sewer line to TVA at Watts Bar and a "red water" project to replace decaying water lines for area residents. A 911 call system has been installed and some city streets paved under her administration, she said.

In recent months, Garrison and city commissioners have discussed the development of a splash pad and a $25,000 dog park.

Patton agreed that a splash park could attract more people to the area.

Newspaper records show Patton served as Rhea County executive from 1994-98, then as Spring City manager from 1998-2001, when he was fired by then-Mayor Howard Gilliam. He was re-elected to the county executive post in 2002 and re-elected in 2006, but lost to George Thacker in 2010.

If elected mayor, Patton said, he plans to improve upon the project to expand the water and sewer lines.

Last October, the city held a public forum with Garrison, commissioners, residents and Southeast Tennessee Development District representatives Beth Jones and Cindy Milligan to strategize about increasing tourism.

"American Heritage" magazine's Spring 2011 edition has a Civil War map guide featured Spring City's historic depot and the Rhea Spartans exhibit.

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