Editor’s Note — The Independent Herald asked each of the five candidates for county mayor the same four questions. Following are their responses. In some cases, answers were edited for brevity or clarity.
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1.) What is the most important issue facing Scott County today?
Brooks: I think unemployment, jobs and our property taxes.
King: The number one answer is jobs. However, I also see a county that has lost its hope. I think that goes hand-in-hand with the lack of jobs and job opportunities.
Perdue: I think it’s jobs. I think we need industry in here. We have kids graduating every year with nowhere to work. They either leave the county or have to drive out of the county to go to work. I think jobs is the main thing. Whether they can be brought or not, I don’t know. That’s something I’ll be working on when I get there. I’ve been in business and I know people are suffering. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
Strunk: The lack of quality, decent-paying jobs in the community. A lot of the other things we’re experiencing are symptoms of the lack of jobs.
Tibbals: I think that singling out a single issue is not appropriate. There are numerous areas that need improvement in Scott County to not only help with unemployment but improve the quality of life for its citizens. Of course employment is on the top of every candidate’s list, but pointing at a single solution will not correct the solution. Increasing the percentage of graduates, including high school, university and technical college, is critical. The era of jobs requiring non-technical skills is a thing of the past. Educating our work force is critical. High school graduation and college graduation rates are on the rise in Scott County. Governor Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative will keep this statistic rising over the next decade.”
2.) What will you do to confront that issue?
Tibbals: The major issues that I will continue to address in the next years are employment, education, infrastructure, debt reduction and drug prevention. All of these topics are directly related to unemployment and quality of life issues in Scott County.
Strunk: I will work to create a sustainable strategy for job creation. We have to collaborate between municipalities and government officials, as I have said many times before, maybe even expanding that out into neighboring communities to create an incentive plan. We have to have an alliance between county and city governments, and possibly neighboring communities, if we’re going to remove the imaginary barriers that remove us from collectively recruiting industry.
Perdue: I’ll be hunting in Nashville, asking them for jobs that want to relocate. I’ll be searching the internet and looking for people looking for places to relocate. I’ll be contacting people who are looking and ask them to come to this county. I know pay is an issue but I’ll ask them to pay better than the county gets because it’s hard to live from week to week. Some of it I don’t know until I get there. But anything I can do, I’ll do. I just think we should be able to bring things to the county and better the county. We need to better Scott County in any way we can, whether that be recreation or anything else in the world. I don’t think $12 an hour is out of the question in this county. I’m going to contact other counties and see what they have in progress.
King: One thing we have to do is engage the community. I would like to see semi-annual or quarterly town hall meetings with the public to get their input on how things are, their perception, and what they feel are the big issues. I feel that’s important — getting in touch with constituents and finding out how they feel, not just what we know or what we feel is important as an entity. We need to use any resource that is available in terms of communication or contact to get in touch with companies and industry, plus work with existing industry, both large and small. We cannot neglect the businesses and industry that have stayed here, stayed the course, and continued to provide jobs for our community. But we also must be able to develop a partnership with new ones. I want them to be a part of this community, not just be here because they can get corporate profits and send them back to corporate headquarters.
Brooks: First of all, we need to try to bring more jobs into this county. I’ve already got my foot in the door in Elkhart, Ind., with the former mayor there. He’s the CEO of Camping World and he’ll help me any way he can to try to bring jobs into this county. You can’t tax yourself into prosperity. You’ve got to do it with a tax base and with jobs. Without jobs, the entire county suffers. You have high unemployment, you’ve got drug problems — it all goes hand-in-hand. One of the biggest reasons I’m running for mayor is because we can work together, me and the law enforcement and other officials in Scott County, and I just don’t accept being too far away from the interstate or that people don’t want to work. I’m an entrepreneur, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.
3.) If you could see three things accomplished in the next four years, what would they be?
Brooks: Recruit as many factories as we can. They don’t have to be big factories; they can be small factories. We need to try to increase our tax revenue through jobs. If we don’t do that, we’re sliding downhill every year. And, third, tourism. That’s something we’re not really pushing.
King: Number one, of course, is jobs. I think that’s going to top all lists. Number two, I want to see opportunities for our youth. I don’t think there’s enough opportunities for our youth, and that leads to some bad decisions and bad choices among the younger population. I would also like to ensure that we maintain a manageable county debt, which makes us a strong and viable county. If we carry too much debt, we’re always at risk of folding and collapsing.
Perdue: I’d love to see Scott County bettered. I’d love to see jobs come back to Scott County. I know there are hundreds who drive out of county every day.Anything that would better Scott County, I’d like to see. I’d like to see stuff for young kids brought into the county so that they could get out and enjoy them. But jobs is the key in that, too. If people can’t afford to get out and do things like that — if they can’t afford to go roller-skating or bowling, they can’t let their kids do it. I’ve been told that they won’t come here, and this and that, but down to earth, I think I can bring them. I think pay is an issue. It would take time (to improve). It can’t be done overnight. And we need to establish a line of communication. Anything people want to talk to me about, they can come to me. I’ll listen to them. That will be a job unto itself.
Strunk: A better working relationship between the county and each municipality, the utilities, and the other stakeholders involved in industrial recruitment is a good place to start. When we worked to recruit New Generation Paving to Scott County in 20112, it was quickly apparent that New Generation wasn’t interested in imaginary boundaries. They wanted what was best for their company. They looked at a building in Winfield before settling on their Bear Creek location. To his credit, Winfield Mayor David Cecil continued to assist with the project even after it became apparent that New Generation wasn’t going to choose the ABC building. Secondly, I’d like to focus on the creation of an economic and community development board that would be focused on retail opportunities that would enhance the quality of life for our citizens. Finally, we need lobby state officials to increase incentives for local communities for job creation and the creation of a local list of incentives to encourage job growth. One person cannot fix our problem, but together we can make improvements for our community.
Tibbals: Infrastructure is a problem that needs considerable attention here. Not only on the state highways, mainly Highway 27, but on the local road system as well. With available revenue for federal, state and county road systems continually decreasing and expenditures increasing, it is time that all systems look for alternative solutions. By continuing to reduce the county debt, it is my plan to create a fund by redirecting a portion of revenues dedicated to the soon-to-be retired debts to a fund specifically appropriate for road improvements in the county. Infrastructure related to internet speeds is also critical for employment growth. Presently, internet speeds are too slow to meet the requirements of companies interested in hiring individuals here in Scott County. Neighboring counties such as Campbell and Fentress have speeds that are 10 times faster than speeds here. For that reason, jobs are going to those counties instead of Scott County. We just received a large grant to work towards resolving this problem. I am presently working with ETDD to determine the best use for these ffunds. Pharmaceautical drug counseling for the adult workforce is a major issue. Education and counseling is available in middle school and high school students through the efforts of STAND, but adult counseling is only made available on a very limited basis. Prevention would be the best approach, but for those that find themselves in the unfortunate situation of drug dependense, counseling must be made more readily available. I feel that working with the federal government, not just state and local officials, developing laws to make the availability of these addictivedrugs is a proactive approach towards prevention. Without improvements, relatively high unemployment will always be a problem in Scott County.
4.) What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Tibbals: What sets me apart from most of my opponents is my education, my people skills, my problem-solving ability, and my proven track record and experience as mayor. All statistics indicate that Scott County is in much better shape than it was four years ago before I took office.
Strunk: I have eight years of government experience, having served on the Scott County Commission, having been chairman of the Community Development Committee, and a member of the Finance Committee, the Building & Grounds Committee, and the Airport Authority. Prior to government service I had 18 years of covering every government meeting in Scott County as a broadcast journalist. I have a work ethic that has led me to have not missed a single meeting in my 8-year tenure. I have a strong background in marketing that will help me promote Scott County to the world — I didn’t say the country; I said the world.
Perdue: My intention is to better Scott County. I know I’ll have four years to do that. I’m going to go to work on it right off the bat. I plan on trying my best to bring jobs in here. You take these guys who are driving, they’re driving two or three hours a day, with wear and tear on their car and the gas that it takes to get there. There are hundreds of them. My whole intention is to try to bring jobs into Scott County. I leave it up to the voters of Scott County to make that decision.
King: I’m approachable, I’m personable, I have the knowledge and understanding. I’ve served on many committees and boards across the county, region and state. I’ve been involved with the Chamber of Commerce since the mid ‘90s. I’ve been involved either directly or indirectly with bringing in businesses or industries over the course of those years that has probably amounted to 1,000 or more jobs. I have education in health care that assists me on the business end of doing things. I’ve worked with the public for more than 30 years, so I know how to communicate.
Brooks: I’ve got a 4-year college degree from Eastern Kentucky University. I worked hard and graduated with a 4-year BS degree in three and a half years in PE, with a minor in health and physical therapy. I have traveled. I started my own company in the early ‘80s and I was the first licensed utility contractor in Scott County in water, gas and sewer lines. I’ve got a lot of experience negotiating with people, negotiating contracts, bidding contracts and jobs. I’m a problem-solver, not someone who will try to pass the buck. The buck will stop at my office. I will handle all problems and issues. I’m going to recruit jobs. I’m not going to hire someone and I’m not going to sit at the office trying to do it.