published Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Republicans to fight it out in Monroe County TN primaries

KEY ELECTION DATES

April 7: Last day for voters to register to take part in May 6 primary election

April 16: First day of early voting

May 1: Last day of early voting

May 6: Primary elections: Polls open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Source: Monroe County Election Commission

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of stories on contested races in area county primary elections.

With a single Democrat on the ticket for each position, the sheriff and county mayor races in Monroe County, Tenn., won't be decided until the general election.

But with multiple Republicans in the running for those posts, the May 6 primary election is bringing plenty of competition.

In the county mayor race, four Republicans are vying for the opportunity to run against Democrat Jim Stutts.

Republican Tim Yates is seeking re-election to the position after ousting longtime Democratic Mayor Allan Watson in 2010.

Two of Yates' opponents tout what they've already done in and for Monroe County as evidence of their commitment to the area and ability to bring economic growth if elected.

Irad Lee, 64, is a business veteran and former Madisonville alderman who said he wants to see Monroe County become the top rural county in the state for business and industry.

Those passing through Madisonville, Tenn., may notice a piece of Lee's work. He conceived the proposal to bring the state's tallest flagpole to the city in 2003. The flagpole stands 150 feet tall.

"To get things done, you have to have goals, and I'm a finisher," Lee said. "I'm passionate about the people in Monroe County."

Candidate Bob Lovingood, 65, also boasts a long record of service in local government. As the current school board chairman, he is versed in making decisions that affect the future of the county, he said.

Lovingood believes that to properly manage Monroe County, the county mayor should consider himself a CEO. He holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of Tennessee and wants to approach the finances of the county strategically.

"I think there's a lot of potential here," Lovingood said. "Overall, we've got a lot of good people here that want to work and are willing to work, but we just need the jobs to do that."

Yates and candidate William Bell could not be reached.

Sheriff

Incumbent Bill Bivens, a Democrat, is running unopposed in his primary, but in August's general election he will face whoever emerges from a two-man Republican primary.

Steve Parris is a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent and is hoping to return to law enforcement. In the primary, he is pitted against Randy White, a lifelong Monroe County citizen and veteran of law enforcement.

Though he worked out of ATF's Knoxville office, Parris, 50, chose to live in Monroe County partly because much of his work involved the drug problems in the county. He said he still hears about the methamphetamine and pill problems regularly and wants to use his experience and expertise to help.

That was one reason he chose to enter the sheriff's race after a law enforcement career that started with a criminal justice degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga took him to Memphis in the 1990s and finally back to East Tennessee.

"It's one of those professions that once it's in your blood, it's in your blood," said Parris, an Athens native. "It's hard to shake."

Paris added he wants to increase trust, transparency and communication between the sheriff and the people while ensuring that officers receive the best possible training.

White could not be reached, but said on his campaign's Facebook page that he has dedicated his life to serving the community and area.

"As your Sheriff, I will be available to hear your concerns as individuals and communities and work diligently to resolve them," his page said.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

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