Kingsport Times-News: Kiwanis Club hosts Kingsport mayoral candidates
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Kiwanis Club hosts Kingsport mayoral candidates

Matthew Lane • Mar 30, 2019 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT — The five candidates running for mayor in the upcoming city election fielded questions from the Kingsport Kiwanis Club on Friday, with issues ranging from the condition of our roads, to whether the city and county are cooperating well enough, to what exactly is the best use of the General Shale property.

Kiwanians held their third candidate forum Friday afternoon with all five candidates in attendance: Joe Carr, Dennis Mabb, Mike McIntire, Pat Shull and Nathan Vaughn. Forums were held earlier this month for the candidates running for alderman and the Kingsport Board of Education.

Mayoral candidates were asked seven questions, and they presented opening and closing remarks. Below are some of the questions and notable comments from each of the candidates:

THE ROLE OF MAYOR

Carr said the role of mayor is to set the tone and the agenda for the community. “I plan on doing that by ushering in a small business and arts and culture renaissance. We need growth, more jobs and putting people back to work.”

“The mayor is the public face of the city,” McIntire said. The mayor serves on a number of commissions, chairs the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings and has many responsibilities. But when it comes to voting, the mayor has one vote, just like the other aldermen, he said.

One critical difference between the mayor and the aldermen is the mayor has the bully pulpit, Vaughn said, and is able to be the city’s cheerleader. “We need someone who gets up and believes in this community, someone who is willing to support this community with all its being.”

“I believe strongly in the council/manager form of government,” Shull said. “I’m prepared to provide some practical, principled leadership. I expect the mayor to lay out the agenda, but not micro-manage the city manager. It’s all about leadership and I’ve got the background to do that.”

DO KINGSPORT AND SULLIVAN COUNTY COOPERATE?

“I don’t think they’re working together very well,” said Mabb. “If they could work together on our roads, pay attention to that, I think we can get a lot further.”

“I think the city and county work together on a great many things. We communicate well and I think we’ll continue to do that as we move forward,” McIntire said.

Shull said the city and county haven’t always had the best relationship, but that there is the potential to work better together. “I’d like to see the county join PETWORKS and ... work together on emergency services. There’s no reason why the city fire department can’t cover the rural parts of the county near the city limits.”

There can never be enough cooperation between the city and county, Vaughn said.

“We need to reach out to Sullivan County to mend the fences of our relationship,” Carr said.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE WITH THE GENERAL SHALE PROPERTY?

McIntire said the future for the site “remains to be seen.” Kingsport is evaluating it as a potential site for a new minor league baseball stadium that could double as an outdoor venue space. “At this point, I’m still on the fence with what we’re going to do with it.”

Shull said the citizens of Kingsport that he has spoken with are appalled about the purchase and what’s being proposed for the site. “Their No. 1 issue is potholes and fixing the streets. I’m getting tired of Third World comparisons about Kingsport.”

Opportunities need to be consistent with what the people in our community want, Vaughn said. “Seven people do not determine what the community wants and needs. We need to evaluate what has become the priorities.”

“Building a baseball stadium is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Carr said, almost as much as a sidewalk on Stone Drive or a bike lane on Center Street. “If we want to bring more tourists to Kingsport, we need to expand Fun Fest, bring in more concerts and get an AAF (Alliance of American Football) team to play at J. Fred Johnson Stadium.”

Mabb said Kingsport should get the roads looking good, then the city can go from there. Using the General Shale property for some other type of development would be better, he said. “We’ve got one (stadium) that’s hardly used now. I’d rather see the roads being fixed.”

MOVING CITY HALL TO THE REGIONS BANK BUILDING?

“With all of the priorities, we need to make sure the people of the city understand the issue and that they’re on board with whatever our decisions are,” Vaughn said. “It’s their money and we need to be good stewards.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Carr said. “If we can consolidate all of the departments of city government under one roof and use the old city hall building to help out the community, help out the homeless, I think its a wonderful move.”

Mabb said it’s the right move, given a lot of people are working in different buildings. “They can’t communicate well, so it’s a good idea. The other buildings, we need to renovate into workable spaces for rental.”

The Regions Bank building was the best choice for consolidation and has the advantage of bringing all city staff together in one place, McIntire said. “It should improve communications and let us reduce our staff. It’s a good idea, great location and will make city government more efficient.”

RECRUITING & RETAINING RETIREES?

When going through the city budget, Shull said he was surprised to see that only $25,000 was allocated for Move to Kingsport. “That’s one area I would put more money into. If we recruit more seniors, they create more jobs because they use services.”

“Retirees are looking for things like the YMCA, the Aquatic Center and the Blake. I think we’re heading in the right direction on that,” Mabb said.

McIntire said Kingsport is reaching out and is very attractive for retirees, especially folks from high tax states. “But we have to have things for younger folks, we have to have jobs and I think once (people come to Kingsport) they’ll stay.”

Vaughn said Kingsport needs to make sure it understands the healthcare dilemma in our region before going out and recruiting more seniors. “We need to think about the priorities that are in place to make sure we do what’s right for the citizens of our community.”

THE MAYORAL CANDIDATES

Joe Carr: a 2014 graduate of Dobyns-Bennett High School and future student of East Tennessee State University.

Dennis Mabb: owner of Waste Knot Solutions

Mike McIntire: current vice-mayor, retired from Eastman

Pat Shull: retired U.S. Army colonel, former alderman and current Sullivan County commissioner

Nathan Vaughn: former state representative, former Kingsport vice-mayor, insurance agent

Municipal elections in Kingsport, Bristol and Bluff City will take place on May 21. In Kingsport, four seats are up for grabs on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen: ones currently held by Mayor John Clark, Vice-Mayor Mike McIntire, Alderman Joe Begley and Alderman Tommy Olterman.

Three seats on the Kingsport Board of Education are also on the ballot: those currently held by Todd Golden, Susan Lodal and Karen Reed-Wright.

Three incumbents have chosen not to seek re-election: Lodal and Reed-Wright on the BOE and first term Alderman Joe Begley.

Early voting begins May 1 in Blountville and May 9 in Kingsport and Bristol and continues through May 16. The deadline to register to vote in the municipal elections is April 22.

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