published Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Franklin County mayor post draws 3 GOP primary contenders

The Republican primary for county mayor leads the ballot in Franklin County, Tenn., where three men are vying for the GOP slot to take on the Democratic incumbent.

The hopefuls all say they want to keep the property tax rate stable and find other ways of generating revenue. The winner will face incumbent Democrat Richard Stewart in August.

Bill Green is a local financial adviser who wants to put his business experience behind the effort to attract industry to the county.

"I think a county mayor can do more to bring in industry," Green said.

Green, 60, said industrial growth would generate jobs and more tax revenue for the county without any increases.

Green is the current Republican State Executive committeeman for the 16th District and is running simultaneously for that post but plans to focus on generating revenue if he can win the primary in May and the seat in August.

"I'm not out to cut a bunch of stuff; my focus will be to extend the tax base," he said.

Green, who ran twice more than a decade ago for state House but lost in the primary, said he would work closely with the local Chamber of Commerce.

Mike Hart describes himself as a "fiscal conservative" and says his approach to the county mayor's office will have four main objectives.

Hart, a 68-year-old, 17-year county resident, wants to boost small business and industry, help local agricultural operations prosper, increase tourism in Franklin County and attract retirees to the area.

He said he supports improving post-secondary education to provide young people with opportunities to gain training for work in their home county.

He also says he wants to increase transparency of county government and apply his business experience in working 30 years for BellSouth and AT&T to the mayor's office.

He said he's been studying county budgets and audits going back to 2007 to better understand the county's financial needs and how to increase revenues without a property tax increase.

Wayne Hart, no relation to his primary opponent of the same last name, is a 65-year-old Franklin County native and current Winchester city councilman who serves on the beer board, airport board and planning commission, and hopes to use his experience in elected office to lead the county.

"We've had no tax increase in Winchester for over 12 years, and I wish to continue my experience in budgeting on the county level," he said.

Wayne Hart, formerly in the funeral home and cemetery business, said he wants to keep supporting a proposed marina in Winchester that will attract more tourism dollars to the county.

He said he wants to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who served as Franklin County mayor in 1944 and 1945.

"I try to tell it straight and do what's right," he said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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