Grandy set to tackle growth and regionalism after narrowly winning second term as Washington County mayor | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – When the ballroom at the Carnegie Hotel erupted in applause around 10 p.m. Thursday, it ended a tense and quiet hour that had seen incumbent Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy barely hold on his lead over challenger James Reeves. .

But look, Grandy had done it, with a victory of 141 votes (unofficial) after the first votes and the 23 constituencies had reported. Turnout was extremely low, less than 13% of registered voters, and Grandy had captured 50.6% to Reeves’ 49.2% (write-in registrations were 0.2%).

It was his second general election win over Reeves, whom he beat by a slightly larger margin (51.8%-48.2%) in 2018, when nearly 18,000 votes were cast in the contest of the mayor. On Thursday, only 10,786 votes were cast in the race.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy speaks to a supporter while awaiting the results of Thursday’s mayoral election. (Photo WJHL)

Grandy’s victory came after a few weeks in which the two candidates traded barbs, with Grandy accusing Reeves of outright lies about him regarding, among other things, his involvement in a bid for a beer garden at the Fair. of Appalachia.

“It’s not a landslide,” he said with a light laugh. “But it is, I think, clearly the truth about the lies.”

Grandy said his next four years in county government will involve “pursuing a policy of transparency, truth and honesty in the work we do and so we look forward to four great years.”

“We look forward to making education a top priority,” he said. “Our teachers are great, we have a real unique opportunity for some students to get professional training in job skills so that when they graduate they are ready to enter the market. Lots of great things are happening in the Industrial Park and we are focused on providing safe drinking water for most of our Washington County citizens. So much to do.

In a nod to the recent movement toward greater regionalism, Grandy mentioned the elections of Richard Venable and Patty Woodby as mayors of Sullivan and Carter counties.

“There’s so much positive in Washington County, there’s so much positive in the area,” Grandy said.

“This Venable was re-elected and Woodby was re-elected. We have a very close relationship with the mayors and governments of our neighboring counties and I think we are really on the verge of having four fabulous years of managed growth and great opportunities for the citizens here and for all the new citizens who arrive. ”

The tone was very different at Quantum Leap, just over a mile from the Carnegie in downtown Johnson City, where Reeves admitted feeling “demoralized” after crashing just before the win.

After a second straight general election loss to Joe Grandy, James Reeves said he was uncertain about his political future. (Photo WJHL)

“You deserve what you got,” Reeves said, apparently in reference to a second term for Grandy. “You didn’t vote, he’s yours for four more years.”

Reeves said he was unsure about his political future, but said he was a good predictor.

“I can pretty much tell the future of what’s going to happen in this courthouse if he stays, so we’ll see how it goes,” Reeves said without providing details. “I wish I was wrong.”

Asked about the drop in turnout, Reeves mentioned the lack of paper ballots, and also said people might “know that the country is bankrupt and we’re starting to worry about ourselves.”

He then mentioned a few themes he had communicated in his campaign that he said pointed to an “insider” type of system – a controversial Bitcoin mine in Limestone and a proposed meat-packing facility that would be partially funded. by money from the American Rescue Plan Act. .

“With the bitcoin, with the slaughterhouse and whatever you can easily hang around his neck, and his band, they didn’t vote,” Reeves said. “I can’t hold their hand. I don’t want to hold their hand.

Back at Carnegie, newly re-elected (unopposed) County Commissioner Jim Wheeler had a very different view.

Jim Wheeler served as vice-chairman of the commission and said he thinks low turnout was definitely a contributing factor to Grandy’s razor-thin margin of victory – but thinks there’s more to it.

“I think for some reason we’re not giving people enough information about the issues,” Wheeler said. “I think people are hearing the campaign speak from both sides, and they believe what they hear and we end up with kind of a 50/50.”

Wheeler said the split among county voters that led to the close of countywide elections in recent cycles is difficult to understand. Reeves and some of Grandy’s other challengers made noise about the “establishment” and “developers” having too much power, but Wheeler said that wasn’t what he encountered door-to-door during the country.

“I find that voters from all economic backgrounds don’t see it that way,” he said. “I think most people, when you locate a school, understand that development around that school is a good thing and that’s what you want.

“You don’t want to favor one (developer) over the other, and they don’t want to see that, but development itself is not the enemy and I think most people understand that. .”

Wheeler said he sees the next four years as an opportunity for Grandy and the commission to work together on some ongoing projects and new areas of interest. He said the effort to expand the water service has found a way and is proceeding without requiring too much time from the commission or the mayor’s office.

“We need to go back to the communication drawing board and do a better job of communicating. I think we need to continue to focus on workforce development – ​​I think that will be one of our biggest challenges going forward.

As for Grandy’s comment about managing growth as Washington County appears on the cusp of significant population growth, Wheeler said that would present a choice the county has not typically faced.

“It will be interesting to see if the county feels like restricting further how we develop and how we grow,” he said. “Traditionally, the county hasn’t had that taste.

“I think a lot of that will come down to how voters feel and what feedback they give not only to the commissioners but also to the members of the planning commission, the mayor and our city counterparts on the degree of regulation they want.”

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