Editor’s Note: The following is a series of questions and answers taken verbatim from a Lebanon Democrat questionnaire recently filled out and returned by each candidate in the District 1 Wilson County Commission race. The Democrat will publish the responses from candidates in this and other races leading up to the Aug. 7 general election.
Incumbent Becky Siever is challenged by Scott Leslie for the District 1 seat on the Wilson County Commission.
Siever is married to Philip Siever, and they have two sons, Drew, 20, and David, 16. She holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Trevecca University and is the principal of West Elementary School, where she has served in that capacity for six years. Before working at West, she was a teacher at Lakeview Elementary School and Mt. Juliet Elementary School.
Challenger Scott Leslie is engaged to be married to Lindsey Vandoornik. He has no children, but lists two dogs – Ellie and Harley – he rescued earlier this year. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Mississippi and has worked for the past 11 years as a medical sales professional and currently special account manager in health care. Leslie was born in 1973 in Memphis and atttended Memphis Preparatory School. He’s completed four full marathons.
What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you?
Siever: I became interested in the office of county commissioner about six years ago during a budget battle over an education issue. I began attending the meetings and found the procedures fascinating. It was a personal initiative to further explore and educate myself on funding issues and budgetary decisions. I have had many people encourage me.
Leslie: I’ve always had an interest in public office and believe it to be a privilege to serve. After sharing some political ideas with a church growth group, I was encouraged to get involved with our local government. I was able to identify the upcoming District 1 county commissioner position as a great way to get involved and make a difference.
What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?
Siever: I think that the county’s rapid growth, and how it is handled, is our most important issue. The increased growth affects all other areas of the county. The growth is a sign that the economy is solid and thriving. However, if not handled proactively, the growth can be overwhelming to communities that are ill prepared to handle the changes. A practical plan is needed to strengthen and prepare for the future. This can be done through the thoughtful assessment of available funds and weighing what is most important.
Leslie: The most important issues to me are communication and a commitment to do what is in the best interest of the county residents without bias or conflicts of interest. For communication – a web presence at electscottleslie.com – here people can learn about issues, votes, discussions and ideas. It will allow people to ask questions directly and post ideas on the site. Email – email@example.com – can be used to contact me, as well as a twitter feed @Scottdistrict1, where I will tweet out county information being discussed. Commitment – I am not employed by the county. The county’s best interest is my best interest.
What would you say to voters opposed to your running for office to convince them you are the most qualified?
Siever: I would tell them that after four years of being a County Commissioner, I have learned and grown a lot. I have developed relationships within the commission. I serve on many committees including the Finance, Education, and Emergency Management. I am the Chairman of the Health and Welfare Committee. I was also elected by my peers to serve as a Road Commissioner. I feel that I have proven myself as someone with common sense, integrity and dedication. I have a work ethic that I hope is known in my district as well as to my fellow colleagues.
Leslie: Unlike my opponent, I am employed in the private sector as a specialty account manager for a medical company. I have more than 15 years of experience working with budget allocation, strategic planning and profitability. I earned a degree in business with a minor in economics, which will serve beneficial in the county commissioner’s role.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents do not?
Siever: Experience. It was what my opponent had four years ago, that I did not! When I began my term, I had a learning curve. Almost a year before the election, I educated myself by attending commission meetings and trying to understand as much as I could. I have since learned so much. I have built relationships and understand the process much better than I did before I began. I am anxious to continue represent my community. I feel I better understand county government and the job itself. I hope I have proven that to my district.
Leslie: Throughout my career, I have worked with people of all walks of life. This experience has taught me to listen to others and address their concerns and needs. When advising a business owner on profitability or cutting costs, I focus on the issues at hand and create solutions that are beneficial to all parties involved. By doing this I am a good steward of my customer’s time and an asset to his or her business. Opportunities such as these allow me to objectively view each situation and the impact our decisions can have on the future of our county.
How is your experience – or lack of experience – a plus or minus for the position you are seeking?
Siever: My experience is a plus. I want to take this experience and continue in my commissioner role for the next term. I understand budget and funding issues. I have a working knowledge of county government so I can make wise, sound choices regarding the county’s future. The relationships that I have built through my county service are also very beneficial to my district because it enhances my ability to work with my commissioner colleagues toward our common goals for our county.
Leslie: This is my first attempt to seek public office. With no preconceived ideas or opinions of how the commissioner board works, I will bring a clean slate to the position. I bring no favorites, no hidden agendas and no tolerance for mediocrity. What I will bring is a fresh perspective, new ideas and an open line of communication to the fastest growing county in Tennessee.