Editor’s Note: With Ed Hagerty retiring, Mt. Juliet will have a news mayor elected Nov. 3. The Mt. Juliet News asked both candidates, James Maness and Dan Walker, to respond to four questions. Here are their answers in their own words.

Name: James Maness

Age: 43

Occupation: Mt. Juliet Vice Mayor, IT Infrastructure Architect

Question 1 (200 words or less): What makes you the best candidate for the position?

For the last nine years, I have served Mt. Juliet as Vice Mayor. I am the only candidate with experience in Mt. Juliet city government. Money.com recently listed Mt. Juliet as the 22nd best place to live in the U.S. We routinely rank as one of the safest and best cities in the state to live. Results like this are no accident. I am familiar with the budget and its processes and the challenges the city faces. I have the understanding it takes to lead Mt. Juliet. I’m the only candidate who is experienced with the city and prepared to start working on day one.

Question 2 (400 words or less): What do you see as the greatest challenge facing Mt. Juliet and how would you address it?

Growth is the biggest issue facing Mt. Juliet. Earlier this year, I sponsored a resolution adopting an overarching transportation plan for the city. The first goal is to move on these projects outlined in the transportation plan as quickly as possible and work with developers to improve our transportation system to avoid costs falling on taxpayers. In areas where that is not an option, the city should do the work and assess the cost back to development when and if the area builds out.

We currently have 133 million dollars worth of transportation projects in the works with 18 different projects to bring traffic relief.

The other major issue is emergency services. We have to rebuild the volunteer fire program that was gutted as a result of the 2019 budget. I can fix the emergency services budget before Christmas with the support of the commission, without a tax increase, and remove politics from public safety.

Question 3 (200 words or less): What does Mt. Juliet city government do well?

The Beacon Center of Tennessee recently listed Mt. Juliet as the most efficient government in terms of cost in the state. The city of Mt. Juliet is financially sound with an AA+ bond rating. We have very healthy cash reserves and a large fund balance set aside for transportation projects.

The city also excels with communication. Our police department is a model department in terms of communication, and I would challenge other departments across the nation to follow their example. As a city official, I also believe in the importance of government transparency and frequent communication with citizens. I host monthly town halls, post regular updates on social media, and send frequent newsletters. If elected mayor, I will continue to keep an open line of communication with the citizens of Mt. Juliet.

Question 4 (400 words or less): What does Mt. Juliet city government need to do better?

There is always room for improvement. Some of the issues I have dealt with center around transparency. I have attempted to pass legislation requiring the use of city email accounts for the City Commission. This will allow for the tracking and recording of conversations. This needs to be in place to for public record requests and government transparency.

The second item is our ethics legislation. Currently, citizens have only 30 days to file an ethics complaint. This needs to be extended to a longer, reasonable period of time.

Lastly, the Board of Commissioners needs to meet more often than two hours, two times a month. That is not enough time to communicate effectively and agree on a vision. We need more workshops to ensure staff and the commissioners are all on the same page.

I have attempted to address all these issues in the past and they have failed to pass the board of commissioners. I look forward to addressing these as your next mayor and passing additional common-sense solutions.

Name: Dan Walker

Age: 57

Occupation: Pricing Administrator

Question 1 (200 words or less): What makes you the best candidate for the position?

My leadership and management experience is much more varied than my opponent. I am 57 years and have split my adult careers in the U.S. Navy — onboard aircraft carrier USS Constellation CV-64, minesweeping activities and other commands in support of Desert Storm and other conflicts. As a national operations manager for a Fortune 100 company I had back office responsibilities of 170 wholesale facilities, six distribution centers and 1,700 employees. These oversight responsibilities included purchasing, opening and closing facilities, safety, training, physical inventory of over $200 million and corporate security. Locally, I have served as a Treasurer for Hickory Hills HOA, President of Woodland Place HOA, active with Mt. Juliet Breakfast Rotary, Tyler Cates American Legion Post 281, and a member of Victory Baptist Church. Currently, I serve as County Commissioner for District 10, a seat that I have held for 7 years. In 2018 I received the endorsement of the Police Benevolence Association for my strong support of law enforcement.

The balanced approach I bring to local government has been learned over several decades. It is important to treat others as you want to be treated and be attentive to the needs of the community. As a servant leader I will lead and manage from the bottom up. By listening to constituent needs an overall approach to local governing will provide the most optimum outcome in the end. Most importantly, is debate amongst elected officials to ensure all facets of an issue are addressed appropriately. My philosophy is to be diplomatic, Negotiable, Accountable and to be Tactful. Most importantly is to maintain high moral judgement and integrity coupled with fiscal responsibility to all taxpayers.

The Citadel is where I received my undergraduate degree in business and an MBA was earned at Cumberland University.

Question 2 (400 words or less): What do you see as the greatest challenge facing Mt. Juliet and how would you address it?

The greatest challenge to the city of Mount Juliet is infrastructure. Wilson County is the fastest growing county in the state and the Mt. Juliet population has exceeded that of Lebanon in a smaller land mass. The traffic is very congested and it will take great efforts to tackle this. There are approximately $133 million in local, state and federal funds allocated for the major road infrastructure. The majority of these funds are provided at the state and federal level. This can be a slow and arduous process to work through these processes.

My plan is to create an ad hoc committee to work closely with the Public Works committee and Andy Barlow the City Engineer. This committee will gain a very clear understanding of the processes at the state and federal levels with each and every road project Mt. Juliet has slated. This group will met regularly and will be tasked with working in the halls of the statehouse, TDOT and GNRC where decisions are made on letting funds loose on projects. If there is surrounding community that does not hit a target date in their respective road plans it will be the responsibility of our team to report on this. This communication can be disseminated up and down the chain of command to inform our state and federal elected officials.

With a dedicated and focused team addressing infrastructure needs more light can be shed on this immediate need. They can be busy establishing the necessary relationships needed to move government forward to meet the ever expanding needs of the residents of Mt. Juliet which in turn will benefit the rapid pace of growth. These efforts have to maintained in order to stay out in front of the services of the general public at large. This is the basic function of government and it is time more weight has to be brought to bear on this pressing issue. My past experiences have ben in areas where the pace needs to be ramped up for better results.

Question 3 (200 words or less): What does Mt. Juliet city government do well?

Mt. Juliet has one of the best police forces you will ever find. They are very responsive and communicate with residents through the cell phone app “Atlas One.” This immediate communication keeps residents apprised of unsafe and criminal activity to ensure maximum public safety. Their license plate reading software has been successful in apprehending suspects in stolen vehicles in the hopes of preventing crimes which may migrate from one county or city to another.

Tyler Chandler runs a very effective community outreach program that affords a very friendly and open relationship between law enforcement in the community. Words cannot describe all of the accomplishments of Chief Hambrick throughout his long tenure as Chief and leader of this important part of our community. Under his steady leadership the department has maintained a very high standard of respect through out local community and Middle Tennessee as a whole. This is a part of why Mt. Juliet is ranked the 22nd greatest city to live in the United States.

Question 4 (400 words or less): What does Mt. Juliet city government need to do better?

One thing Mt. Juliet could do better is recruit more high tech jobs to the area. This is the part of the government called economic development. My plan is to establish a “High Tech Enterprise Zone” to bring in high paying white collar jobs for our children and grandchildren. We already have enough logistics companies and high paying technology jobs would bring in a smarter younger work force. Some of these younger workers in their 20s and 30s may opt to live downtown Nashville in a high rise condo for the entertainment value and lifestyle provided by a big city. They could reverse commute to Mt. Juliet on the rail for work in this industry. This would backfill empty passenger rail cars during daily commutes and hopefully long term lead to more frequent stops along the line.

Mt. Juliet was built as a stop on the railway and we need to continue to capitalize on this for future generations. Please work together with me to lay down the groundwork now to ensure our future is bright and secure.

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