CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Dan Howell, longtime executive assistant to Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, will begin a leave of absence from there in November, possibly to run for the state House of Representatives.
"It has been a true honor to work beside Mayor Davis as he has served the people of Bradley County," Howell said. He said he considered Davis his friend and looked forward to supporting him in his re-election bid next year.
Speculation has placed Howell in the running for the House District 22 seat that will be vacated by state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, who recently announced he will seek to become Bradley County's next sheriff.
County Commission Vice Chairman Adam Lowe announced Tuesday that he is a candidate to replace Watson.
Lowe, a local business owner and educator, said in a news release that he told friends of his intention earlier this week.
"My wife and I have known for some time that I was feeling led to serve in a different role in our area," he told supporters at a private gathering. "When it was clear the state seat was open, I knew that it was time to take my work ethic and experience to Nashville."
Lowe won his first political office in 2010, beating an incumbent in the Republican primary to become the 4th District Bradley County commissioner. He was chosen vice chairman of the commission in September.
Howell, who represents Bradley, McMinn, Polk and Meigs counties on the Republican State Executive Committee, will make an announcement about his plans in the coming weeks, a news release issued by RedRight Strategies stated.
"I ... look forward to what awaits me next, as many in the community have encouraged me to look at other opportunities," Howell said. "I have enjoyed serving the people of Bradley, Polk and Meigs counties as committeeman of the Republican State Executive Committee, and I am eager to continue serving folks throughout Southeast Tennessee."
His statement about his service on the executive committee omitted McMinn County but specifically mentioned Bradley, Polk and Meigs - which comprise House District 22.
Howell's association with RedRight Strategies, a general consulting and campaign management firm, also is fueling speculation about his future. Members of the organization have served as high-ranking campaign officials for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in 2010 and 2012 and in then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2007-08 presidential campaign.
In a recent meeting with Bradley County commissioners, Davis did not address Howell's announcement.
Howell and Watson join a growing number of Bradley County officials seeking new ventures.
Circuit Court Judge Carroll Rose has said he won't seek re-election, and so has 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb, who is the subject of ongoing House and Senate investigations.
Republican Steve Crump, who resigned from the Bradley County Elections Commission earlier this year, has filed campaign documents for the district attorney position. Crump lost to Bebb in 2006.
Bradley County 1st District Commissioner Ed Elkins also has announced he will not seek re-election in 2014.
Elkins, first elected in 2006, said he would make a formal statement on his decision later.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.