Free Press County Commission picks for District 1, District 7, District 9

Free Press County Commission picks for District 1, District 7, District 9

July 22nd, 2014 in Opinion Free Press

Randy Fairbanks

DISTRICT 1

Includes northern Hamilton County, Soddy-Daisy, Sale Creek

Registered voters: 19.881

Voting precincts: Includes Bakewell 1-2, Dallas 1-2, Falling Water, Flat Top Mountain, Mowbray, Northwoods 1-2, Sale Creek and Soddy-Daisy 1-4 precincts

District 1: Fairbanks still the better choice

Randy Fairbanks only had a few days to savor what many believed was an upset victory over incumbent Fred Skillern in the May Republican primary for the District 1 seat on the Hamilton County Commission. He had no Democrat opponent and so was virtually assured his seat.

But Hamilton County Board of Education member Rhonda Thurman decided to mount a write-in campaign to take up the mantle for Skillern, with whom she had worked closely on projects for the district.

We still believe Fairbanks is the right choice for the seat in the Aug. 7 county general election and encourage Thurman to continue her role as contrarian on the school board, where she is the District 1 representative.

Fairbanks probably will not vote much differently from how Skillern did, but he vows to be accessible, to be visible in the community -- two things voters said Skillern was not -- and to be a "working partner" with his constituents.

The Soddy-Daisy accountant, who has been an active volunteer in the district for years, said in his primary campaign he wanted to work with the Southeast Tennessee legislative delegation to help increase Hamilton County's share of the Basic Education Program funding, to be a watchdog on County Commission budgets, to spend instead of hoard (as he said Skillern did) the district's discretionary fund, and to foster better rapport between the commission and the school board.

Thurman has properly asked questions, sought reasons and wanted numbers when many would rather she just remain silent during 10 years on the school board. But she has a tall hill to climb to win with a write-in candidacy, something no one in Hamilton County has ever done.

Her campaign stresses government accountability to taxpayers and the desire to continue projects, some of which she worked on with Skillern, such as a sewer line extension into Sale Creek, a new Daisy Elementary entrance, a track stadium for Soddy-Daisy High School and a football field for Sale Creek Middle/High.

While we believe many public boards need a Thurman, we believe Fairbanks will work hard to provide solid representation for the district.


Sabrena Turner

DISTRICT 7

Includes East Brainerd, Westview, Apison, Collegedale, Tyner, Concord and Ooltewah

Registered voters: 25,977

Voting precincts: Includes Apison 1-3, Collegedale 1,2 and 6, Concord 5, 7, East Brainerd 1-2, Ooltewah 1-2, Tyner 2 and Westview 1-3 precincts

District 7: Turner overwhelming selection

If Sabrena Turner puts as much effort into her work on the Hamilton County Commission as she did in running for the open District 7 seat, she could be a force to be reckoned with.

The East Brainerd real estate brokerage owner steamrolled two other formidable candidates in the May Republican primary and now faces Democrat Ezra Maize, senior pastor at Friendship Community Church, in the Aug. 7 general election.

Turner has signs everywhere in the district and has made herself available at campaign events throughout the area.

Maize, on the other hand, has few signs, little name recognition in the district (having moved to Chattanooga in late 2011) and appears to have done little campaigning.

Turner gets our wholehearted support as someone who advocates efficient, accessible and transparent government, and is a proponent of growth (with attendant infrastructure improvement) and workforce development. Taken together, she said, those things will attract and retain good-paying jobs.

Active in projects across the district, she also was among those who took the lead in opposing further annexation of unorganized portions of Hamilton County by the city of Chattanooga. Subsequently, a bill was passed in the Tennessee General Assembly this past term prohibiting annexation across the state unless certain criteria are met.

Though Maize is a Democrat, his platform -- at least according to his campaign website -- is quite conservative. There, he advocates the promotion of small business and entrepreneurship, a thriving economy and job market attained through reining in spending and regulation, and lowering business taxes, and strong public schools through the likes of improved technical and skills training.

While the two candidates' ideas for their constituents seem similar, we endorse Turner -- who would become the first woman to hold the seat -- as someone who has long lived, worked in, and been hands-on in improving District 7.


Chester Bankston

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

DISTRICT 9

District 9 includes Harrison, Birchwood and portions of Ooltewah and Snow Hill

Registered voters: 25,977

Voting precincts: Includes Birchwood, Collegedale 3-5, Harrison 1-6, Meadowview, Murray hills 2, Ooltewah 3-6, Snowhill 1-2 and Summit 3 precincts

District 9: Bankston leads with his actions

When public bodies like the Hamilton County Commission have a member like Chester Bankston, who leads with his deeds and not his mouth, good things happen.

As such, the county, over the past four years, has seen 31 new company starts, 60 company expansions and one retention -- good for 7,789 jobs. Of course, much of Enterprise South, where Volkswagen and Amazon are located, is within his District 9.

Bankston, completing his first term on the commission after one term on the Hamilton County school board, convincingly deserves a second term.

A Vietnam veteran and retired electrician and electrical supervisor for the Hamilton County Schools, he says he is "used to long hours and hard work" and often expends that in client services in his district.

Bankston is opposed by Melinda Bone, the owner of two businesses and an impressive candidate who says she wants to "bring a fresh, diverse perspective to the table."

We wish she were running in one of the other County Commission districts or for another post because her desire to assist youth, help small business owners and lower (or not increase) property taxes on seniors is commendable and appears heartfelt.

But Bankston understands the importance of growth (but ensuring large, new businesses pay educational taxes), education (with the necessity of a better trained workforce) and no tax rise (which his study tells him is "feasible" and is not just campaign lip service).

Without reservation, he also said the aging Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, which lost out on County Commission funding this year, was likely the next school to be replaced, and admitted the relationship between the County Commission and school board "is not where it needs to be."

Bankston's honesty, his quiet leadership and his desire to spend his retirement working hard for the district make him the best fit for District 9, the largest and most populous district in the county.