Commissioners were uncontested for seven of the 25 total seats on the commission. They are Bobby Franklin in District 3, Terry Scruggs in District 7, Sara Patton in District 9, John Gentry in District 11, Terry Ashe in District 12, Gary Keith in District 17 and William Glover in District 19. Eight commissioners opted not to seek re-election.
The Democrat sent questionnaires to each commission candidate in the contested races, along with requests for biographical information. The following are the candidates’ answers and information about them:
In District 18, Commissioner Terry Muncher didn’t seek re-election, and two candidates – Lauren Breeze and Bob Richie – qualified to run for the seat.
Breeze is the co-owner of nashvillefunforfamilies.com, an online resource for things to do in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. She was formerly a third mate in the Merchant Marines and a port captain for a global containership company. She has a bachelor’s degree in marine transportation from Texas Maritime Academy, a division of Texas A&M University, and master’s in business administration focused on global business from St. Edward’s University, which she completed with a 4.0 grade-point average. She and her husband, Dominic, have been married for 17 years and have two children.
Richie is married to his wife, Vickie, and they have two children, five grandchildren and one on the way. He holds a master’s degree in business administration and marketing from the University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University and a bachelor’s degree in engineering operations from North Carolina State University. He started and partners in General Data Concepts, an information technology repair business in Old Hickory that paid taxes to Wilson County, not just sales and property taxes. He worked for the GHSO at TDOT and moved to administration manager for the Tennessee Arts Commission. He was voted to second TDOT Leadership Academy and developed safety programs for Trucking Association members through Vertical Alliance Group. He conducted driver safety programs for Wilson County high schools, purchased a TravelHost license and relaunched a tourism publication, created social media presence, added mobile billboard sales and BitCoin kiosks. He’s been a member of the Tennessee Hospitality Association for three years, Rutherford County Hospitality Association for five years. Nashville Visitors and Convention for two years, director of Habitat for Humanity in Wilson County six years, president of two Toastmasters clubs, an elder at First Presbyterian Church in Hermitage for five years, a member of the Tennessee Trucking Association and Mid-Tennessee chapter vice president and a member of the Tennessee American Chinese Chamber of Commerce for international contacts.
What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you?
Breeze:I got involved in serving the county first through schools. I chaired a committee for Wilson County Schools in 2013 focused on community engagement in education. Following that, in 2014, the District 18 commissioner at the time, relocated outside the district. I was nominated to complete his term, but due to having young children, I withdrew, because I did not feel I had the time to dedicate to the residents of District 18 that they deserved. I stayed active in county government and am intimately familiar with issues facing Wilson County. Now that my children are older, I have the time to devote to actively serve and represent the community, and I am seeking office based on the encouragement I have gotten from many District 18 residents. I want to use my experience both in Wilson County and from living in other states to bring new ideas to focus on the rapid growth in the county.
Richie:My wife and several friends who know about my passion for seeing the county grow, get its due recognition and use my knowledge of technology and infrastructure to make it better for constituents to do business in the county. I believe we can bring in a major event that will gain national exposure for tourism and bring in revenue to our merchants. My wife and several others who were concerned with the transportation issues and schools encouraged me to run. We have many people who live in District 18 who commute to Davidson County for work. The current system is unacceptable, and we need the regional intelligent transit approach. This will impact schools, as well as commuters, impact clean air and make our power grid more secure.
What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?
Breeze:According to the U.S. Census, Wilson County’s population in 2010 was 113,993 and grew 19.6 percent to 136,442 in 2017. By 2025, population is projected to be 150,223, a 31.8 percent increase, and by 2050 the projection is 201,324 a 76.6 percent increase from 2010. We, as a community and county, need to plan for this growth to ensure that our schools, sheriff’s department, WEMA, roads and county infrastructure continue to provide the high-quality service that we enjoy today. I would like to see each county department put together a needs assessment for the next 10-20 years based on growth projections. Then, based on these assessments, I would like to work with the city governments and citizens of Wilson County to put together a strategic plan with goals for the next five, 10 and 20 years all focused on maintaining the high quality of life we expect and enjoy.
Richie: We need to build new schools, fund them properly and come up with a better alternative than Tennessee Ready. Some talk about school safety such as gun control and prevention and one of the best remedies of this is putting God back into schools and teaching them they will have a higher authority to deal with. I also feel that the shooter’s name should be withheld by the media as it makes them think they are famous and not a footnote in time. A number of states like Texas, California and Ohio are voting on ballots for a $500 fine for bullying to parents. Maybe this is something to consider or at least community work. A traffic study is needed for North Greenhill Road to support the new high school and improve youth driver safety. North Greenhill has a treacherous hill, and I don’t see where adequate planning has been accomplished to see what the county will need to do to prevent accidents once the high school is built. We need intelligent regional transit. Many in Lebanon, Mt. Juliet and other eastern counties send thousands of workers to Nashville to work in government, financial sectors, health care, etc. I know because both my son-in-law and daughter start work in that direction. The new regional transit system proposed can begin reducing this, which will not only save Wilson residents time but gas money which can go into purchases in Wilson. We need better management of our resources and taxes. We need a digital transformation that will aid in reducing time for taxpayers to access government entities and greater government satisfaction. When you call the courthouse and need to go from deeds to mayor to courts, you have to dial each one separately. In this technological age, this is a waste of taxpayer time and resources. We need to increase county revenues through bringing in more visitor opportunities to maintain property tax rate at a reasonable level. I will work with tourism to bring in national tournament to show the country what Wilson has to offer to help bring in new jobs and economic development.
Think of our county 20 years from now. Name three things that must be addressed now to make it better for the children of this county.
Breeze:I would say growth, growth and growth. We need to address traffic, infrastructure, zoning, police, fire and EMT services and schools. If smart planning is implemented, Wilson County can flourish in the next two decades, but we simply have to stop letting the cart pull the horse. We must determine where we as a county want to be in 10-20 years and develop a long-term strategic plan to get ahead of these issues so we can be proactive rather than reactive.
Richie:Transportation: With artificial intelligence vehicles and new methods of power distribution, we may not need large parking areas at high schools. Money saved from gas operations can go into adequate teacher pay. We need an adequate pay plan for teachers, a better plan to fund new schools and compensation and determine who is capable of remote teaching. Many work from home, and there will come a time when instruction from home or remote centers maybe a solution that improves security and opportunities for more diverse courses where the teacher may not have to be at every school, for instance, foreign languages. Since China is one of our biggest trading partners, one might want to learn Chinese and you may have only on instructor in the system capable of doing that. By using Skype or another method, one teacher can handle more than 50 remote students at a time. We need to put God back into the school system. There needs to be a higher authority that children will respect and reduce the bullying. The Bible carries lots of wisdom, not about religion, but about work, knowledge, peace and joy. I am not a religious person, but it seems ever since we let the Supreme Court take God out of schools, they have not gotten better. Many states are going with bullying laws of $500 to the parent and/or community service.
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