By Jill Penley
With 55 residents submitting petitions to run for county office, the ballot for the August 2 General Election is tentatively set as the April 5 noon deadline passed for candidates to file paperwork and accompanying signatures for a qualifying petition. The next step is verifying the petitions,” said Cheri Lipford, Administrator of Elections. “The Johnson County Election Commission will meet to give final approval for candidates’ names to be placed on the county’s ballot.” Any candidate wishing to withdraw must do so by noon on April 12 or their name will remain on the August 2 ballot.
Keeping county offices non-partisan, over half of Tennessee’s 95 counties do not have a Judicial/County, Republican or Democrat Primary and Johnson County is in that number primarily due to the taxpayer cost to conduct a primary. County offices up for election in August include County Mayor, Sheriff, Trustee, Circuit Court Clerk, County Clerk, Register of Deeds, and Road Superintendent. Constables will be elected in Districts one, two and three, School Board Representatives in Districts one and three, and County Commissioners in each of the county’s seven commissioner districts.
Previously known as “county executive,” the county mayor is the accounting officer and chief financial officer of the county. The minimum salary for County Mayor, which determined by population class, is set by the General Assembly.
According to the University of Tennessee’s County Technical Service, the county mayor should have a better picture of the total government operation than any other county official, and should also have “the knowledge, information, and leadership ability to steer the county in the direction most beneficial to the county’s future.”
In addition to the general qualifications of officeholders, the office of sheriff has several specific elements including the requirement to be psychologically tested to determine fitness to serve in the office. Also, the sheriff, who is the primary conservator of the peace in the county, is charged with more statutory duties and responsibilities than any other elected or appointed official in the state.
The statutory duties of the Sheriff include: keeping the peace, attending the courts, serving the process and orders of the courts, and operating the jail. Each of these divisions plays a vital role in the daily operations of the sheriff’s office. There are additional responsibilities of the county sheriff, which include administrative proceedings, records management, dispatch operations, criminal investigations, service of warrants, courthouse security, and training.
The county trustee is entrusted with collecting the county’s property taxes, accounting for and disbursing county funds, and investing temporarily idle county funds. The Trustee is also charged with administering the tax relief program offered by the State of Tennessee for elderly and disabled residents, and disabled veterans.
The typical form of county government in the state of Tennessee involves a popularly elected legislative body, called the board of county commissioners. The Board functions as a primary policy-making body under the powers granted by the General Assembly in public or private acts, including the power to levy property taxes and expend funds for the benefit of all Johnson County residents.
According to State Comptroller’s Office, Johnson County is divided into the following seven commission districts: District 1, which encompasses the Laurel Bloomery and Cold Springs Communities will elect three commissioners to represent this area. District 2, which covers the areas of Forge Creek and Shouns, elects one representative to the county board of commissioners. The communities of Neva and Trade, which made up District 3, will elect three commissioners while District 4, which includes all of Butler and Dry Run, will elect two county commissioners.
Three county commissioners will be elected to represent the Doe Valley community. Voters in Shady Valley and the Sutherland Community, which make up District 6, will elect one county commissioner while District 7, or voters in the city of Mountain City, will elect two for a total of 15 commissioners on the Johnson County Board of Commissioners.
According to the University of Tennessee’s County Technical Service, “any county resident who is at least 18 years old, and who is not otherwise disqualified from holding public office by reason of certain criminal convictions or other legal qualifications, may seek the office of county commissioner for the district in which the commissioner resides.” State law does, however, dictate the number of county commissioners, calling for at least nine and no more than 25 members elected from all county districts, with no more than three members serving in each particular district. Members, which are elected by the voters in their district to four-year terms, receive compensation for their service and meeting attendance. Although the county legislative body determines compensation, the General Assembly establishes guidelines for minimum wages, which amount varies from $20 – $35 for each meeting attended depending upon the county population.
Tennessee school board members are elected by the community to make and to oversee critical decisions about the school district. Though the State Department of Education is the primarily responsible agent for overseeing education in Tennessee, the local school board is charged with overseeing the governance of education in Johnson County.Perhaps most importantly, the school board is charged with employing a director of schools under a written contract of up to four years duration, which may be renewed. This director may be referred to as “superintendent” and replaces the former superintendent of schools. The school board is the sole authority in appointing a director of schools.
Upon the recommendation of the director of schools, the board elects teachers who have attained or who are eligible for tenure and are the primary group that determines how the district functions as the board consider and adopts school policies that are followed throughout each of the schools. The policies they approve follow federal and state laws, so all decisions made within the district comply with those laws. Other various duties include: purchase of all supplies, furniture, fixtures, and materials for schools, dismissal of teachers, principals, supervisors and other employees upon sufficient proof of improper conduct, inefficient service or neglect of duty, and to develop and implement an evaluation plan for all certified employees in accordance with the guidelines and criteria of the state board of education, and submit such plan to the commissioner of education for approval.The school board is also responsible for requiring the director of schools and the chair to prepare a budget on forms furnished by the commissioner of education and, when the local board has approved the budget, and to submit it to the county board of commissioners.
While some county offices have ambiguous official names attached, the Johnson County Register is not one of them, as the Register generally does just that – register. In past years, this office was officially dubbed “Register of Deeds,” however, due to the increase in documents that are continually being registered in addition to the large volume of property deeds, the state legislature now refers to this office as the County Register.
The most important function of this office is obviously the filing or recording of various documents that ultimately affect the legal status of real and personal property including not only deeds, but deeds of trust or mortgages, financing statements or Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) fixture filings, survey plats, assignments, court decrees including judgments, leases, liens, releases and various other documents. County-specific documents, such as the bonds of the county officials and required reports, are also registered in this office.
Tennessee places the judicial power of the state in one Supreme Court and several other lower courts, which state legislature creates including circuit and chancery courts. Accordingly, the state constitution instructs chancellors to appoint the clerk and master for six-year terms while Circuit Court Clerks are elected at the regular August election occurring every four years and coinciding with the governor’s election for a four-year term.
The Circuit Court Clerk’s office, located on the second floor of the courthouse, sees a steady stream of visitors as it prepares all dockets for court and maintains court files and services for the county. This office also stays consistently busy renewing information to all active files, calculating all court costs for all cases receipting court’s costs and fines paid into the courts by defendants and disbursing funds to appropriate agencies and individuals. Collecting and distributing child support, approving property bonds set by commissioners or judges for defendants released from incarceration, and performing criminal background checks for those seeking criminal information are all on the list.
The county clerk has numerous duties, including acting as clerk of the county legislative body, issuing motor vehicle titles and registrations, collecting privilege taxes, and overseeing the issuance of beer permits, marriage licenses, and pawnbroker licenses. In addition to these statutory duties, the county clerk of Johnson County contracts with the state to issue driver licenses since the county lacks a local department of safety office. Under the same premise, the county clerk’s office is authorized to sell Tennessee hunting and fishing licenses.
The County Clerk also issues business licenses, and since the County Legislative Body elects notaries public, the county clerk keeps a record of the notaries public in the county and has duties involving coordination between the secretary of state and the notary applicant.
Also, the Clerk keeps various and numerous public records generated by other offices within the county on file.
This position is responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges throughout Johnson County.
For a list of qualifications for each specific office, please visit /sos.tn.gov/products/elections/qualifications-elected-office
The last day to register to vote in the August 2nd state primary and county general election is July 3.