Jimmy Haley says the community has enjoyed tremendous progress during his term as County Executive, while Terry Bell contends Warren County is moving in the wrong direction with Haley as the top county government official.
Those differing views were clear as the two men met Monday night for a political forum conducted by Southern Standard and WCPI.
Said Haley, “If you look around and ask yourself ‘Is our county better off than four years ago?’ most everyone is going to say yes. We’ve made great strides. You can see the progress that’s been made and we will continue to make that progress if we all work and cooperate together. I’m here to serve all Warren County residents. I always have and always will. I’ve never asked an employee, a director, to do anything I wouldn’t do. I’m usually there beside them rolling up my sleeve and getting the job done, whatever it’s been.”
Bell says his view of the county is different.
“For the last four years, I think our county is headed in the wrong direction,” said Bell. “We’ve just had a lot of problems with our county government. Our county commissioners and county executive can’t seem to work together and teamwork is what it takes.”
Haley is looking for his second term as County Executive, while Bell is looking to unseat him when early voting starts July 15 and Election Day is Aug. 4.
During the forum, Bell proceeded to rattle off a list of grievances he has with Haley’s job performance.
“We need to remember some of the things that have happened the last four years,” said Bell. “Mr. Haley has achieved one thing. He’s the only chairman that’s been removed by 60% of county commissioners and replaced by a county commissioner. If he’s reelected, I don’t know if they’ll let him serve as county chairman or not. That is something I think our businesses look at when they come and watch our government. Also we’re one of the 14 Upper Cumberland counties to have a mask mandate put on us and this building was closed to the taxpayers for a long time and this is your building. If I’m elected, this will be your building again. We also post guards at the door and we had our property taxes raised in the last four years. It’s pretty plain to see I have a different style of leadership.”
Haley says he has always operated under the premise the best government cannot solve every problem. He said Warren County is blessed to have the services of volunteers among its long list of hard-working contributors.
“I’ve been a proverbial optimist all my life,” said Haley. “Growth is coming whether we like it or not. Change is here and our greatest potential for growth still lies ahead. That’s why we’re working with educators, the Robotics Center, with Motlow, with TCAT, with all of our educators to teach a better workforce for what is the future of America and the jobs that are going to be there. I’m a strategist. I like goals and vision. There’s been a lot done in four years. The list is too long to list. To say I haven’t worked with county commissioners, well they hold the purse strings. They’ve funded these programs. They’ve been there to make sure the jail and Animal Control and what we want to do has been accomplished.”
Bell and Haley were each asked to identify one goal they would like to achieve if given four years to serve as County Executive.
Haley said he wants to have a new facility for Animal Control.
“I’ve been meeting with the city and David Denton to partner with the city to try to find a location,” said Haley of a new Animal Control. “We’re just about close to finding one now that we can identify hopefully soon where there’s going to be a joint, hopefully, partnership between the city and county in order to establish a new Animal Control center, something we can be proud of, that will keep animals safe across this community and best serve the needs of Warren County … We need a new center, one that’s user-friendly, one that can accommodate growth. It will help change the lives of not only Warren County citizens, but for the safety of the citizens as well so animals are not roaming around hurting others or hurting individuals.”
Bell said a bigger facility for the Senior Center would be a project he thinks would be valuable to the community.
“I know the county doesn’t control the Senior Center, but I’d like to see a new facility for our seniors to where they can access this,” said Bell, who noted the Senior Center feeds about 150 hot meals every Wednesday. “Hopefully all of us one day will go to the Senior Center and use that service. They are doing a lot of good things to get the seniors out, to get them moving and exercise them and do a lot of things so that would be one of the things I think that could change our way of life.”