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 13 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.
Sonja Robinson challenged incumbent Wilson County Commissioner Clint Thomas for the District 13 commission seat in the Aug. 7 election.
Thomas seeks his third term as commissioner.
Robinson is a graduate of Mt. Juliet High School and Draughons Business College with a degree in financial management and secretarial administration.
What prompted you to seek office? Was it a personal initiative or did others encourage you?
Thomas: It was both. A planning and zoning issue arose in our neighborhood. We felt it was an issue that needed to be further addressed and looked into instead of being chalked up to “it’s already a done deal.”
Robinson: I have always had a heart for public service. As a lifelong resident of Wilson County, mother and grandmother, I have a genuine interest in the issues that affect our county.
What are the most important issues in your race, and how do you plan to address them?
Thomas: There are a plethora of important issues that Wilson County faces and as many ways to address them. Of these issues, some are large and complex while others are small and simple in nature. Whether it’s how we responsibly handle growth, remove the present conflicts of interests, find innovative ways to address education, including funding, reduced class size, etc. and implement more responsible fiscal policies and procedures. Any solution should start from one place – priorities. We as a commission have had and will have the ability to set priorities for how these issues are handled. Our actions and budgets should start to reflect a different set of priorities, which address the real problems and concerns of the people of Wilson County in a proactive and responsible manner.
Robinson: Communication is a large issue with me. I feel the people in District 13 need to know who their voice is in the county commission. If I am elected, the issues affecting our district will be heard, and my vote will reflect the feelings of my constituents. I want the people of my district to know there will always be an open line of communication, and I will always be readily available to them. No issue will ever go unheard.
What would you say to voters opposed to your running for office to convince them you are the most qualified?
Thomas: If you do not want someone on the county commission representing your interests, asking hard questions, tackling tough issues and challenging the status quo and would rather have someone who is a “yes man” and clearly represents a conflict of interest, I am not your man.
Robinson: If I am elected, the people will know their commissioner for District 13. I will pledge to be a conservative, responsive voice and to always let my vote reflect the values of my people.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents do not?
Thomas: I believe I bring a great deal more to the table. I bring 20-plus years of private-sector experience into the public sector. Most importantly, though, I have no conflict of interest. When I cast my vote on county issues, voters can be assured questions have been asked, research has been done, and there is no conflict of interest involved; there is no ulterior motive.
Robinson: I have been in public service all my working life. I was on the Wilson County school board for six years, giving me the understanding of the budget and financial process. My past work experiences include working for local banks and a local utility. I have the ability to listen to people and the experience to identify the problem and develop a solution.
How is your experience – or lack of experience – a plus or minus for the position you are seeking?
Thomas: The years I served in this U.S. Navy, the years I have spent in the private sector as an operations manager and my educational background and general life experience have prepared me to serve as your county commissioner. My years of service to our country in the Navy taught me several important life lessons; the most important of these is attention to detail. There are many instances, such as crafting resolutions, budget reviews, funding discrepancies within line items, etc., where this skill has served me well. My years in the private sector have ingrained in me solid business principles I think could be implemented within the public arena to achieve more efficient and effective results. My education has equipped me with the tools needed to gain a different perspective, a more creative way to approach and solve problems and issues rather than keeping with the “that’s the way we have always done it” crowd.
Robinson: My life experiences are a plus. My experience in both the public and private sectors have taught me that the government is not so much a service or a business but rather a service that should be run like a business.