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County mayor hints at plans for next four years

Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely

By Ty Butler

In an election marked by low turnout, only a total of 1,293 votes were cast in the Aug. 4 election in Unicoi County, according to unofficial results from the Unicoi County Election Commission.

The figure represents 11.35% of the 11,393 registered voters in the county. Voting trends were down sharply for the election, which saw Garland “Bubba” Evely secure another term as county mayor, defeating Independent candidate Bralen Diamond with a vote total of 1,005 to 196.

Evely addressed the low turnout during a post-election conversation with The Erwin Record.

“I always love to see more people vote, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that a lot of races were decided in the primary, so there wasn’t many contested races,” Evely said.

“It’s everybody’s right to vote, and I encourage everyone to do it, whether it’s for me or for someone else,” he added.

“I’m humbled by the way I’ve been treated by the voters,” Evely said. “I’m finishing up 29 years of public service, so it’s always nice to know that the people have confidence in you and the job that you’re doing.”

He also reflected on his first term as mayor.

“It’s been a trying four years, with the pandemic and everything else, but it’s also been a good first four years,” he said.

The mayor also hinted at some plans for his new term.

“A lot of our planning for future projects has been ongoing for the past 18 months,” Evely noted. “There’s going to be a $4.1 million infrastructure improvement to water and sewer throughout the county within the next couple of years.”

He’s also working with the school system on three major projects.

“One is a new gymnasium at UCMS and another is repairing the track,” he said. “The third is installing brand new tennis courts.”

He also said that the county’s communications systems are due for an update. 

“There hasn’t been a real upgrade to that in over 20 years, and we’re doing it in phases, which are almost complete,” he said.

“We’re looking to make major improvements to the county’s health department,” he added. “We were successful in getting an additional grant to do renovations at the facility. There hasn’t been any significant renovations in close to 20 years, as well.”

He noted that all of the projects are being funded by either federal grants or state grants that the county has received. 

“It’s not going to be a burden on the taxpayers as far as property taxes or anything like that,” he said.

“I’m excited about the next couple of years, working to get some projects out for bids and completed. It’s going to be a busy next term for us.”

Other county officials faced no competition after securing their party’s nomination in May, including Sheriff Michael Hensley, Circuit Court Clerk Darren Shelton, County Clerk Patty Treadway, Register of Deeds Debbie Tittle, Road Superintendent Terry Haynes and County Trustee Katie Howell Bennett.

The county commission saw only one new face elected.

In District 3, Cody Scott and Stephen Hendrix received 298 and 294 votes, respectively. John W. Mosley received 269 votes. All three men will return to the commission.

In District 2, Jason Harris and Wayne Edwards took 295 and 292 votes to win seats on the commission. Brian Delp came in third with 256 votes. All three men will return to the commission.

In District 3, Loren Thomas and James Harris received 301 and 272 votes, respectively. Tim Lingerfelt, who got 299 votes, will be the new face on the board, replacing Marie Rice, who did not seek reelection.

Commissioners serve four-year terms and will not be up for election again until 2026.

The board of education saw some close races. 

In District 1, Tammy Edwards Tipton received 220 votes and a seat on the board. Only two votes separated the other two candidates, Cathy J. Thomas and Brook Rice. Thomas got 194 votes to 192 for Rice, which will allow Thomas to claim the second open seat on the board for District 1. 

In District 3, Steve Scott received 341 votes and Steve Willis received 284 votes.

School board elections are staggered. Board members for District 2 were elected in 2020. Board members serve four-year terms.

Constables Arthur Metcalf, Chad McKinney and Timmy Lewis faced no opposition and received 322, 344 and 332 votes, respectively. Metcalf won office for District 1, McKinney for District 2 and Lewis for District 3.

Several judgeships were also on the ballot. Mitch Manuel took 1,066 votes and secured office as General Sessions Judge.

Suzanne Cook took 1,003 votes to win office as Circuit Court Judge, Part 2, for District One. J. Eddie Lauderack received 920 votes to win office as Circuit Court Judge, Part 1, for District One.

Lisa Nidiffer Rice and Stacy L. Street, received 1,005 and 976 votes for reelection, respectively, as Criminal Court Judge, Part 1 and Part 2, for District 1.

Other offices decided on Aug. 4 included District Attorney General Steve Finney, who received 907 votes, and Public Defender Jeff Kelly, who received 911 votes.

Incumbent John B. Holsclaw Jr.  won nomination from the Republican Party and will seek reelection without oppostion in November as state representative for Tennessee House, District 4. 

Incumbent Diana Lynn Harshbarger, U.S. Representative for U.S. House District 1, will face off in November against Democratic nominee Cameron Parsons. Harshbarger and Parsons received 1,000 and 118 votes, respectively, in the Aug. 4 Republican and Democratic primaries.

Incumbent Steve Southerland, State Senator for Tennessee Senate District 9, will face off in November against Democratic nominee Sara Thompson. Southerland and Thompson received 940 and 122 votes, respectively, in the Aug. 4 Republican and Democratic primaries.

Incumbent Gov. Bill Lee received 970 votes in Unicoi County as an endorsement of his reelection bid as the Republican nominee. Statewide, Lee received 494,195 votes.

Lee will face off against Democratic nominee Jason Brantley Martin, who received 68 votes in Unicoi County in the Aug. 4 election. Statewide, Martin received 101,221 votes and will be his party’s gubernatorial nominee in November.