• Feb. 6: Last day to register to vote
• Feb. 15-28: Early voting held 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
• Locations: Election commission office; Bradley Square Mall; mobile precinct at Bi-Lo on APD 40. Bring valid photo identification.
Source: Bradley County Election Commission
CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- In addition to their presidential preference, some Bradley County voters will choose a county commissioner in March's Super Tuesday primary.
The Republican race is in the county's 4th District. Among the six candidates is interim Commissioner Cliff Eason, principal of the Cleveland City Schools' Teen Learning Center, who was appointed when Howard Thompson resigned eight months ago.
Other candidates include Charlotte Peak Jones, owner of K.A.C.E. Construction & Developments and Charlotte's Wallpaper; James Robert Peters, former sheriff's department employee now employed with G4S Secure Solutions USA; Jim Smith, a former 4th District commissioner; Paul Bagley, retired from M&M Mars; and Paul Elrod.
Four candidates took part Thursday in a radio debate on WOOP FM.
"I am a 28-year resident of the 4th District, 27 years of management/engineering experience," Bagley said. "I am a technician, a technocrat. But I have learned the value of getting people's input. I have actually built a factory, as part of a multinational team in Poland that created 400 jobs."
He also worked for a year in China before retirement.
"The key is to ask the right questions and get everyone's viewpoint," Bagley said. "I am a no-nonsense troubleshooter. I am a problem-solver. That's what I do."
Eason said he feels humbled to have been appointed and added, "I believe I have done a pretty good job. I haven't missed a single meeting.
"I have tried to be accessible and listen to individuals in the 4th District," he said. "I am not one to shy away from controversy. I don't go looking for it, necessarily, but I don't have a problem speaking out for people in the 4th District."
Peter said he was speaking as someone who has worked for a living every day.
"The small business owners are great. But when you see people who go from paycheck to paycheck and worry about 'can I buy my medicine this month, make my house payment or my car payment this month,' that is one of the reasons I became involved in this election," he said.
"I believe I can serve working people and the people struggling to make ends meet, by keeping their taxes low and seeing that they do have jobs coming into Bradley County that can pay them a decent and honest living," he said.
Jones pointed out her work as a successful businesswoman, her work with nonprofit community charities, her status as a lifelong county resident and her service with the Economic Development Council.
"Let me be clear, I am not for raising taxes any time, especially during a recession," she said. "I know the people. I know the needs. I am their voice.
"I believe in smaller, less intrusive government," she said. "I am hoping I can bring this business approach to government and keep taxes low."
The candidates agreed that school issues are a priority and that voters, not the commission, should decide whether any wheel tax is approved.
Smith and Elrod did not attend the debate.
Smith was 4th District commissioner before the 2010 elections.
"It sounds good to give the people the right to vote on it [a wheel tax]," Smith said in a telephone interview. "I don't think we need any more taxes when everyone is struggling."
Smith counted among his accomplishments supporting the construction of a new elementary school on property the county already owned.
Elrod, now retired, said he wants to bring his professional experience in business and his knowledge of the community to county government decision-making.
"We need to analyze and gather factual data before conclusions are made," Elrod said.
"I don't necessarily have priorities. I have no agenda going in," he said.
County government needs to keep a balanced budget while preparing for a growing community's needs, Elrod said.
"I am not for a wheel tax at this time," he said. "I say 'at this time' because the economy is not right for adding a new tax."
And, once a tax is established, he said, "it's easy to lose control."
Elrod has served on the Ocoee Utility Board, the Bradley County Recreation Board and with national business organizations. He is active in youth sports programs.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...