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 candidates in the District 9 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.
Three challengers, including James Copas, Jason Haley and Gary Tarpley, are in the race against incumbent Sara Patton for the District 9 Wilson County Commission seat.
Patton graduated from Cumberland College in 1977 following high school and was employed at Toshiba for several years before graduating from Lebanon-Wilson County Vocational School as a licensed practical nurse in 1991. She currently works as a nurse at Friendship Healthcare Systems in Nashville.
She and her husband of nearly 37 years, Willie Patton, live on Main Street in Watertown. They have three grown children, Josh, Amanda and Matthew Patton.
Copas is a 10-year employee with Wilson County Emergency Management Agency and a U.S. Navy veteran. He graduated from Watertown High School and holds a technical certificate in emergency management systems from Tennessee Tech University. He also holds several certifications from the Tennessee Fire Academy and Tennessee Commission on Firefighting.
He is married to Amanda Copas, and the couple has three children, Clayton, Brooklyn and MacKenzie.
Haley, 38, is a Wilson County native and works on his father’s century farm, which is also in District 9.
He and his wife, Heather Haley, have two daughters, Emily, who will be a sophomore at Watertown High School in the fall, and Ashley, who will be in the seventh grade at Watertown Middle School.
Tarpley chose not to respond to the questionnaire.
What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you?
Patton: I was prompted to seek office by a combination of personal initiative and encouragement from others. Seeing the need for effective representation in the east end of Wilson County for some time, and seeing no one willing, I chose to run for office after encouragement by others. After all, if you are not willing to make a difference yourself, don’t criticize or expect a change.
Copas: The decision to seek office was a personal initiative for me. I have always been a public servant. I joined the Navy right out of high school. After my enlistment was up and upon my return home, I began to volunteer at Watertown Fire Department and began employment at Wilson County EMA. My decision to run is another step in my commitment to my community.
Haley: I have been interested in county government for some years, even though I feel we have a lot of good leadership in this county. I feel my abilities can be an asset to Wilson County. Therefore, it was more a personal incentive to run for the commission office. I have received encouragement from family and friends to pursue this position.
What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?
Patton: I want to be the best representative of District 9 and Wilson County I can possibly be, making sure that we who reside in the eastern end of the county are not overlooked or pushed to the bottom of issues that concern us by further addressing the needs of District 9 and Wilson County before the wants. We need to address the needs and wants by utilizing county resources without going over budget or having to increase taxes.
Copas: Two of the biggest issues facing families in District 9 are the expansion of fire and EMS into the rural areas of the county and the expansion of municipal water to areas where it’s not provided. Both of these issues have to be addressed hand in hand with the administrators of the departments responsible for those items. To get things done it takes an open dialog and mutual respect, both of which I feel I can bring to the table.
Haley: I think the most important issues in our county today are long-range planning of schools, roads and other needs of our county citizens. These issues must be addressed sooner than later if we are going to spend our tax revenues wisely.
What would you say to voters opposed to your running for office to convince them you are the most qualified?
Patton: I feel having served in this position for the past almost four years, I have shown that I am dedicated to meeting the needs of District 9. Some examples of those continuing efforts are our improved road conditions, the running of additional county water lines in the Commerce and Statesville areas and our beautiful new Watertown High School.
Copas: I’ve spent my life in a capacity of service to those around me. As a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and as a firefighter, I have a unique connection with my community. I have always been willing to go to bat for those around me. I have a sense of commitment to those I serve, and I will work hard to be a representative of the people and not just my own interest.
Haley: I would never claim to be the most qualified to run for the commission office. However, I do possess a working knowledge of how our county operates. I understand the necessity of spending our tax dollars wisely and would not be swayed to do otherwise.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents do not?
Patton: Serving as county commissioner for the past almost four years, I bring experience but also a working relationship with county entities to effectively represent voters. Serving on the WEMA Committee, Public Works Committee and the Back Tax Committee for the past four years, as well as the Wilson County Budget Committee for the past two years has given me additional knowledge and information for being an effective commissioner.
Copas: I can’t speak “against” my opponents because while I know who they are and have met all of them at one time or another, I do not know them on a personal level. What I can say is, having never served in political office, I will bring a fresh perspective and new personality to the table.
Haley: I think that I’m very familiar with the people of Wilson County’s 9th District and will listen to their wants and needs at all times. I feel our county government has been very receptive to providing for the needs of the 9th District. Our new high school in Watertown is just one of the many assets the 9th District has.
How is your experience – or lack of experience – a plus or minus for the position you are seeking?
Patton: I believe my experience to be a plus and refer you to the previous question and answer. I have working relationships already in place with the knowledge of how county government works providing effective results.
Copas: I think my lack of experience in the political arena is one of my biggest strengths. I have learned that during the last several weeks by listening to those who I have talked to. Nearly all of them have echoed the sentiment that they are tired of the “same ole song and dance” when it comes to politics and politicians.
Haley: I currently serve as an appointed member of the Wilson County Ag Management Committee. I have learned how to work with current members said committee, as well as having attended many county commission meetings during the last four years. I would hope this will enable me to make informed decisions, if elected.