By Jill Penley
For the most part, Johnson County voters chose to retain incumbents in Thursday’s county general election howbeit some by slim margins. Two major upsets, however, sent shock waves across the county as a new sheriff and new county mayor are expected to be sworn in and begin serving come September based on unofficial election results from the Johnson County Election Commission.The August 2 election, which served as the county’s General Election as well as party primary elections for state and federal offices, saw a total of 5,326 of Johnson County’s 11,083 registered voters cast ballots in the election, for a voter turnout rate of 48.06 percent.
After serving as Johnson County Sheriff for three terms, incumbent Mike Reece was defeated by Eddie Tester, a veteran law enforcement officer who has served as a Tennessee State Trooper for the past 18 years. Tester received 4,052 votes, garnering 77 percent of the vote. Reece had 727, and the third candidate on the ballot, Johnny Roberts, a deputy with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and former Johnson County Sheriff, received 480 votes.
The county mayor’s race was a close one as Mike Taylor unseated incumbent Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter by just a 122-vote margin in Thursday’s General Election. Taylor, an elementary school teacher and director of Junior Appalachian Musicians, or JAM, received 51 percent of the vote to defeat Potter, who got just less than 49 percent.
Voters chose to retain all other county officials housed in the Johnson County Courthouse. Running unopposed in the election, Tammie C. Fenner will return to County Clerk’s office for a third term by receiving 4,301 votes of confidence. Lisa J. Crowder, Johnson County Trustee incumbent, defeated Michael Trivette taking over 72 percent of the vote, while Circuit Court Clerk, Melissa Hollaway, received 3,655 votes, 73 percent of the vote, to defeat challenger Katherine Mink. Incumbents also retained the offices of Register of Deeds and Road Superintendent as Freida May Gwinn received 50 percent of the vote to defeat two opponents, Pamela S. Brown and Jeffrey D. Rupard, to remain Johnson County Register. Darrell Reece will return as Road Superintendent after defeating challenger James Kenneth Moody by taking over 62 percent of the vote.
Only two school board seats, representing District 1 and District 3, were on the ballot in this election. Incumbent Howard L. Carlton retained his seat in District 1 receiving 45 more votes than challenger Russell G. Robinson. Two seats were up for grabs in District 3 where Gary Matheson gained the most votes, 1,057, to earn a seat on the school board, followed by incumbent Kevin V. Long, who received 853 votes, allowing him to remain on the board of education.
Constables elected were James E. Brown, who will continue to represent District 1, and Dave Quave and Ray Lunceford who will continue to represent District 3. In District 2, longtime constable Norman E. Miller received 1,290 votes followed by Key Kernaghan with 553 votes. The two held off three challengers: Keith H. Estevens, Lee Farley and Ben Price.
Several incumbents will retain seats on the county board of commissioners, and there will also be some new faces serving on the board. Incumbents Bill Adams and Eugene Campbell gained the highest number of votes in a field of five candidates. Joey Norris was elected to the third seat, currently occupied by Mike Taylor, who chose to run for County Mayor. Scott Mast defeated Lester R. Dunn to retain his place on the board to represent District 2. In District 3, Jerry Grindstaff was the only incumbent to retain his seat on the board. Freddy Phipps, who has served as the board’s chairman in the past, got the most votes for this district, followed by newcomer Berna Arnold, who gained a seat on the board garnering over 19 percent of the vote. In District 4, incumbents Tommy Poore and Rick Snyder will retain their seats by defeating two challengers, Terry Brown and Leon Odom. Incumbent Jimmy Lowe received enough votes to retain his seat in District 5. Joining him are Megan McEwen, who earned the highest number of votes in this district, followed by Jerry Gentry. In District 6, one of the closest races of the evening, incumbent Huey L Long narrowly lost his bid to return to the commission, being defeated by David McQueen by a margin of only six votes, 207 to 201. Commissioners Gina Y. Meade and Evelyn W. Hill will retain their seats on the board as they ran unopposed.
In the state primary, Republican Bill Lee took Johnson County with 1,350 votes. Randy Boyd followed with 1,276, and Diane Black got 1,027 votes. This was the trend in
the area with Lee getting 36 percent of the vote, or 20,300 votes, in his primary in Washington, Carter, Unicoi, Johnson and Sullivan counties combined, besting five other challengers. Lee’s proportion was similar statewide, with unofficial results from the Secretary of State showing him with 37 percent at the end of the night. Karl Dean, chosen to represent the Democratic Party in the governor’s race in November, was the top pick of Democrats in both Johnson County, with 380 votes, and northeast Tennessee, with 6,181 votes. Dean took 79 percent of the vote statewide. In Johnson County, Craig Fitzhugh and Mazianne Vale Payne tied with 73 votes each; however, Fitzhugh remained the second runner across the five East Tennessee counties garnering 17 percent of the vote, which was even with his total proportion for the state. Payne got 602 votes across the five counties.