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Mayors tout records, experience in election
Jul 18, 2006 12:00 am
With less than a month remaining before the Aug. 3 general election, County Mayor Robert Dedman and challenger Linda Elam are touting their experience in leading governments.
Both have openly supported a raise for teachers.
But the similarities largely end there as Dedman touts the county's accomplishments since he took office in 1998, while Elam challenges what she calls the "status quo" in county government.
Elam has proudly taken credit for Mt. Juliet's zero-property tax rate – which she has maintained as its mayor since 2004 – but Dedman said this can be attributed to the much smaller size of Mt. Juliet government.
"First of all, what services do they provide to the people in Mt. Juliet?" Dedman said Monday. "They have no (city-funded) fire protection, they have no schools. The only thing that they really fund is their police department."
Elam fired back, saying the city provides "supplemental" services not provided by the county.
"I find it interesting that he tries to dodge that question when he talks about Mt. Juliet … and (has) allowed two property tax increases to occur on his watch," the Mt. Juliet mayor said. "Perhaps the county would benefit by working hard to live within its means."
However, Dedman noted the county property tax rate has not been raised in six years.
"We've done good," Dedman said. "(Mt. Juliet has) a $10 million budget and we have a $142 million budget. We've got the schools, the jail, the roads … courts."
And while conventional wisdom would have Elam holding strong in the western portion of the county and Dedman performing better in the central and eastern sectors, both say they have made inroads into what – at least for Elam – was previously largely uncharted territory.
"I was very well received in Tucker's Crossroads on Saturday … (and) enjoyed speaking with a lot of people at the Watertown Jazz Festival," Elam said.
Dedman said he thinks his record will go over well in Mt. Juliet.
"I just go down there (and) tell them to look at my record," Dedman said. "See what we've done."
Elam entered the race on the heels of the fire protection issue in Mt. Juliet, namely who should pay for existing and additional needed fire protection in the West Wilson City. Mt. Juliet does not have a fire department, instead relying on the Wilson Emergency Management Agency station in the city.
The cancellation of that contract by the County Commission and ensuing debate largely led Elam to enter the race, but the issue has since settled down some as both the county and city await a joint report by the Municipal and County Technical Advisory Services on the best way to administer countywide fire protection.
Despite that issue being on the back burner, Elam contends one is still a hot-button issue.
In February, several county commissioners and residents attempted to speak at the county's Emergency Management Agency committee meeting. But chairman and outgoing Commissioner Robert Lannom denied them the opportunity, citing their failure to place themselves on the agenda.
This is one reason, Elam said, why openness is part of her platform.
"Well, there was in fact a vote recently to try to correct the situation where committee chairs denied both citizens and commissioners the right to even speak at a supposedly public meeting," Elam said, referring to a failed resolution by Commissioner Heather Scott which would have allowed a public comment period. "I did not see anyone from the mayor's office objecting to the denial of citizen input at county meetings. These days of hiding what you're doing have got to end."
Both candidates have launched Web sites (lindaelam.com and robertdedman.com) and both are spending heavily on local media.
Citing his open-door policy, Dedman – who was the assessor of property before being elected county executive, later changed to county mayor, in 1998 – said his political ambition does not expand past the county's borders.
"I just enjoy serving the people because they've been so good to me in the past," Dedman said. "I just get a big thrill out of it."
Citing a dire need for change, Elam used words like "honesty" and "integrity" frequently in talking about her campaign.
"I bring experience in commercial real estate matters through my professional experience as a real estate attorney … a willingness to work hard … to foster open government and communication, and I bring integrity," Elam said.
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.