Mayor, sheriff hot primary contests in Bledsoe County

Mayor, sheriff hot primary contests in Bledsoe County

March 20th, 2014 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Bledsoe County Sheriff Jimmy Morris

Photo by Ben Benton/Times Free Press.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a series of stories about contested races in the May 6 county primaries.

Candidates for county mayor and sheriff in Bledsoe County, Tenn., will lead the biggest contests on the local ballot in May when voters head for the polls to decide four contested county primaries.

SHERIFF

Two-term incumbent Sheriff Jimmy Morris will face former Chief Deputy Gary Johnson May 6 for the Republican slot on the August ticket.

Morris says his record stands as testament to his performance with "firm law enforcement."

"Our record shows the citizens what we will do," said Morris, who first won the seat in 2006 over then-incumbent Democratic Sheriff Bob Swafford, whom he faced again in 2010 when he won his second term.

"We've always worked hard on drugs and theft, and we try to serve the citizens," Morris, 43, said this week.

Neither man had anything negative to say about his opponent this week.

Johnson was chief deputy under Morris for five years, but was dismissed by Morris for "insubordination and inefficiency in his duties," according to reports in the Bledsonian Banner newspaper in October 2011.

Morris himself is not without some past problems, including an arrest in November 2012 for his involvement in a fight at the Huddle House in Dunlap, Tenn., in neighboring Sequatchie County.

Morris' cases since have been expunged, according to court officials in Sequatchie County.

Morris said the court's decision on the charges "proved they had no right to arrest me," he said.

In regard to Johnson's dismissal, Morris said he "had nothing bad to say about the man."

Johnson, a 15-year law enforcement veteran, said this week that he wants to increase patrols across the county for higher law enforcement visibility and to revive the county's D.A.R.E. program in local schools and boost neighborhood watch groups in the community.

"I want to do everything I can to help young people," said Johnson, 61. "Prevention education is key to getting kids not to try drugs to start with."

Of his dismissal from the chief deputy's post under Morris, Johnson said, "Evidently he felt like he had a reason to dismiss me, and I don't think he did."

The GOP primary winner will face Democratic challenger Doug Roberson in the August election. Roberson, who has no opponent in the primary, has sought the post in the past.

MAYOR

Gregg Ridley

Photo by Ben Benton/Times Free Press.

The Republican primary will also be a battleground for the county mayor's race between former two-term county Mayor Gregg Ridley and Bledsoe political newcomer Rodney Warran.

"I believe our county's chief financial officer should practice personal accountability, effective leadership and conservative financial management in order to better serve the citizens," said Ridley, 51.

There also are "many aspects of recruiting employment opportunities into the county such as building on our existing infrastructure, maintaining adequate highways and an adequate water source, and we need a business-friendly local government," Ridley said of his platform, noting that many Bledsoe businesses are farming and related agricultural operations.

Ridley has spent 21 years of his 31-year career in the automotive industry and spent eight of the remaining years as county mayor from 2002 to 2010, he said.

Warran said his platform targets jobs and new businesses to give children a reason to stay in Bledsoe County and pursue their careers so the county continues to grow, prosper and support itself without tax increases.

Warran, 63, who moved to Bledsoe from Rensselaer, Ind., hopes to offer "fresh, new ideas that can be a benefit to everybody," he said.

Warran said he brings experience in business management and real estate and that he has worked in the local school system, which gives him some insight into the way children in the county view their future.

The victor in May will take on incumbent Democratic Mayor Bobby Collier in August. Collier is unopposed in his primary.

COUNTY COMMISSION

Contested races are also on the May ballot for two seats on the Bledsoe County Commission, election records show.

In the District 3 Part A Republican primary, Nathan Riddle and Aaron Yeargan will go head to head. The winner will face Democrat Tim Campbell in August. Campbell is unopposed in May.

In the District 6 Part A Democratic race, Democrats William C. "Chuck" Cartwright and James D. Housley III will vie for that seat. There is no Republican seeking the seat, so the primary will decide the race.

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