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Officials and candidates attend Chamber’s legislative breakfast

The Johnson County Chamber of Commerce held a legislative breakfast bright and early Saturday morning for candidates who are either running for or holding local, state and federal level positions. With the Honor Guard leading the opening and a prayer by Mike Long, breakfast was provided by Cook’s Cafeteria. The event was sponsored by Farmer’s State Bank, Elizabethton Federal, Johnson County Bank and State Farm Insurance.
Along with Johnson Countians, among those in attendance were Tennessee Speaker of the House Kent Williams, Congressman Phil Roe, Representative Jason Mumpower, representative from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office Jordan Young, Johnson County Mayor Dick Grayson, Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons, Sheriff Mike Reece, Circuit Court Clerk Carolyn Wilson Hawkins, County Clerk Tammie Fenner, Trustee Sue Hensley, Register of Deeds Trish Hartley, Director of Schools Morris Woodring, Commissioner Larry Potter, Superintendent of Roads Tony Jennings, as well as other officials and candidates.
Representative Jason Mumpower has recently announced that he is not seeking reelection. He has been a representative for Johnson and Sullivan counties for the past 14 years. According to Mumpower, this year may be the most challenging yet. He stated, “Every state is suffering through hard times.” Both people and businesses are struggling. Mumpower would like to see the State of Tennessee get through these difficult times without raising taxes. Representative Mumpower was pleased that Tennessee was one of only two states that will be awarded Race to the Top grants for education. The state will receive monies over the next four years to help the schools move forward and implement their school reform programs. Mumpower acknowledged that deciding not to run for reelection was a difficult and tough decision. “I have worked hard to be the best representative I can be,” said Mumpower, “It is time to meet the next challenge.” Mumpower asked those in attendance to give Ron Ramsey their vote in the race for governor this August.
Jordan Young, representative from Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey’s office, advised that at this time, 18 states have entered into lawsuits that claim the healthcare bill is unconstitutional and are considering hiring outside counsel. He also asked for Ron Ramsey’s vote in August.
According to Congressman Phil Roe, “This last year has been an amazing year.” Roe spoke at length on areas of concerns for many citizens of the United States, including cap and trade, the recently passed healthcare reform bill, education and the national debt. With regard to the healthcare reform bill, Roe believes this bill is the biggest piece of social legislation since 1965. In reference to the healthcare bill, “This will bankrupt our country,” said Roe. He explained that $500 billion will be taken out of Medicare funding, give people less access to doctors, the quality of care will go down and the cost will go up. Roe added 37 states are trying to put forth state amendments that oppose the new healthcare reform bill. Roe acknowledged that the biggest issue for the country is jobs. “Our people need to work,” Roe said. He is also very concerned over the debt the United States is incurring. “The debt is going to sink us,” said Congressman Roe.
Tennessee Speaker of the House Kent Williams discussed healthcare in Tennessee. He explained the healthcare programs that Tennessee implemented, including Cover TN and Access TN, along with prescription programs that help lower the cost of medication for seniors. Williams does not want to lose programs that have helped Tennesseans. He explained that the State of Tennessee has $900 million in reserve. He would like to take the money out of reserve, similar to a savings account, to help with budget expenses. According to Williams, “As Tennesseans we will work our way out of the recession.” Williams also is working to preserve the right to hunt and fish in Tennessee.
Mountain City Postmaster Frank Arnold addressed the representatives attending the Saturday morning breakfast. He is concerned about discussions to cut the number of days the postal office operates from six to five. Arnold explained a congressional mandate would be needed to decrease the number of days. He is concerned that UPS and Fedex would pick up the slack. According to Postmaster Arnold, the postal service is the largest employer in the United States with 700,000 employees. Arnold is very concerned that cutting delivery service would cause job loss. In Johnson County, that would equate to five jobs being terminated. Arnold stressed that cutting these five jobs will affect the lives of five good employees at the Mountain City Post Office.
Mayor Kevin Parsons briefly touched on issues in Mountain City. Parson also added he is not seeking re-election for city mayor as he is now running for county mayor.
Scotty Campbell from Johnson County is seeking the office of state representative for part of Sullivan and all of Johnson County. Campbell has spent time in Nashville learning how the state government process works. He believes everyone needs to roll up their sleeves and work together. Timothy Hill is also seeking the office of state representative. Hill is a business owner in Blountville and employs 20 people. He described himself as conservative. Hill is looking forward to getting to the know the people of Johnson County.
Finally, County Mayor Dick Grayson addressed the group and said he is pleased that Johnson County was able to have a balanced budget. He is concerned about the rising unemployment rate that reached 16 percent in January. His hope is that employment in Johnson County will improve. Johnson County government employs 120 people. At the end of March, 85 percent of property owners had paid their property tax bill. He also added that last year there were individuals who did not have the funds to pay their property taxes. Grayson announced several months ago that he will not be seeking re-election to the couinty mayor position. This will be the first time in 44 years that he has not been on the voting ballot in some capacity. Grayson is thankful for the opportunity to have served the people of Johnson County.