Leadership should be a top priority for voters when they head to the polls to vote for their next Warren County executive.
That was one of the prevailing thoughts from both county executive candidates speaking Tuesday night at a political forum sponsored by the Southern Standard and WCPI. John Shields, who won the Republican nomination, and Herschel Wells Sr., who won the Democratic nomination, were in attendance.
“I’d like to focus on one skill that’s needed and that’s leadership,” said Shields. “Leadership is defined as the process of social interaction where one person can elicit the aid of others in the accomplishment of a task. In campaigning, I have spoken to constituents about the challenges facing our community today and the need for leadership to address them.”
Wells talked along those same lines.
“I have proven leadership for today and experience for a better Warren County tomorrow,” said Wells.
In his introduction, Wells talked about his experience on the Warren County Commission, where he has served for 12 years. He is currently chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee and the Jail Oversight Committee. A Navy veteran who served from 1966-70, Wells has been in the construction business for more than four decades.
“As a native of Warren County, a businessman, a farmer and a county commissioner, I understand both public and private sectors and how they can work together in an efficient manner,” said Wells. “In my career in the construction business for over 45 year and my involvement in county government for over 12 years, I have been blessed to be able to work on many of the local projects with members of our community. That teamwork and a continued teamwork approach will be a priority of mine.”
Shields says his leadership training began in 1988 when he graduated from officer school at Tennessee Military Academy. It continues today as he is an engineering manager at a leading automotive tier one.
“I am prepared to lead our commission and our county with the energy and determination it deserves,” said Shields. “Three of the qualities I strive to embody are honesty, integrity and objectivity. With these qualities a leader can stand before the people and earn the respect needed to succeed. My goal is to unite our governing body and lead with these qualities and meet the challenges head-on.”
Some of the major issues facing the county identified by Shields are finding a suitable resolution for the lack of a county morgue, improving our animal control situation, improving our high school graduation rate, finding creative ways to trim our budget or increase our tax base, and staying competitive in the job market.
Wells addressed the issue of the county losing local option sales tax dollars each year to the city. By the time the next county executive finishes his first term, that amount will exceed a half million dollars a year.
“This tax that we’re losing is $80,000 each year,” said Wells. “We’re at $240,000 this year and we’ll be at $320,000 the next year and $400,000 the next year. Right now, we don’t have a problem with this tax. It’s at $80,000 a year, but that number could go up or it could come down. When we will begin
to hurt and need to start doing something will be in 10 to 15 years when we get up to $1 million or $1.5 million coming out of our budget.”
Shields says if the county can continue to increase its tax base, it might be able to absorb the sales tax loss without a property tax increase.
“Losing these funds over the next several years will definitely have an impact and we’ll have to look to either cut services or we’ll have to look to raise taxes or we’ll have to do what I prefer, to increase our tax base,” said Shields. “The best way to do that is to work on our job market to bring more jobs in here and better paying jobs in here. This in turn will create a disposable income for our workers which will allow them to go out and spend more money in our community. That increased spending will result in more tax dollars we’ll be able to bring back. In addition to those tax dollars, we will also have an increase in the property tax base.”
When talking about education, which consumes more than half of the county’s annual budget, Wells said there are some things that can be accomplished locally and some directives which come from the state. Both candidates expressed a desire to continue the close partnership between WCHS and our post-secondary schools, Motlow and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
In closing, both candidates expressed their desire to move Warren County in the right direction.
Said Wells, “I have the proven experience for a better Warren County and I would certainly appreciate your vote.”
Said Shields, “I have a lot of reasons for wanting to run for this position but the biggest reason I have is my children, I have three, and also for your children. I believe we have a great county we can sell to business to better our job situation and I believe we can better our community. I would like to be the leader of this community and show you what I can do.”