The Williamson County Republican Party held its second County Commission Candidates Forum on April 21 ahead of the local primary election.
Candidates from Districts 1, 8, 10 and 11 — areas with three or more candidates on the primary ballot — were asked to answer questions posed by WAKM radio host Tom Lawrence and Williamson Herald Derby editor Jones.
Who were the candidates?
The second forum of the month attracted a new group of County Board incumbents and new candidates, including the following:
District 1: Lisa Lenox (candidates Ricky Jones and Scott Lucas were not present)
District 8: (candidates Jerry Rainey, Barb Sturgeon and Drew Torres were not present)
District 10: Meghan Guffee, David Landrum, Bradley Diaz
District 11: Sean Aiello, Brian Beathard, Wayne Garrett
First look from the Williamson County Clerk:Former clerk’s grandson Glen Casada among candidates
The influence of local CAPs
To start the evening, the contestants were asked about Moms for Liberty and its affiliated PAC Williamson families.
“I am proud to say that I am endorsed by the Williamson families,” said District 1 candidate Lisa Lenox. “I’m a Christian, I’m a conservative and they put us through a very detailed vetting process and they wanted to know who I am and what I stand for.
“I haven’t taken any money from them to date, but I’m approved.”
Candidates Wayne Garrett and Bradley Diaz confirmed they were endorsed.
The group’s sponsors said they respect PAC’s willingness to consider them and other new applicants.
Holders said they have not been contacted by the Williamson families. Incumbents Meghan Guffee, David Landrum, Sean Aiello and Brian Beathard were recently endorsed by the Sargent Legacy Fund, a PAC formed by supporters of late state Representative Charles Sargent.
“I’m also a conservative Christian with family values, so I would have liked the chance to have coffee with some of the leaders,” Beathard said. “They seem to have gone straight to tribalism, straight to the other side, it’s bad and we’re the only good side.”
Tom Lawrence asked the candidates whether supporters will influence the votes of the candidates once elected.
“I would take (a call) no matter who it was because that transparency is vital to me,” Diaz said. “No matter who calls or what they ask, that doesn’t mean I’m going to make my decision based on who he is.
“There’s only one decision in all of this, and that’s to trust your heart and do what’s right.”
county board versus school board
Candidates were asked to prove their knowledge of the difference between the County Commission and the County Board of Education.
Although the County Commission approves funding for local schools, it does not make policy decisions or have the authority to approve or deny items in a budget.
“The budget is the county commission’s primary concern,” Guffee said. “We’ve had many incredible leaders who have focused on how much of the county budget they want to allocate to county schools…I think it’s important for us to be fiscally prudent to continue the work. of those who came before us.”
Despite the lack of jurisdiction over school policy issues, Wayne Garrett said his platform includes ensuring the curriculum “is free from racialization or sexualization of students.”
“As a commissioner I have certain responsibilities, but as a taxpayer and a resident I have things that are close to my heart and you will hear me talk about them,” he said.
The status of smart growth
“Smart growth” has been a topic of interest across the county for years.
Beathard thinks the phrase has different definitions for different people, but it should be a thing for years to come.
“What I think smart growth will mean in the future is that the commission works with the municipalities in the county. They have their own planning commissions, their own building standards,” he said. “What I’m dedicated to is working with municipalities to make sure we’re on the same page.”
Incumbent Sean Aiello said he looks forward to facilitating a change in regulations surrounding how the county works with municipalities.
“The handshake agreements we have with the city are good and we have a good working relationship, but we don’t have a lot of leverage,” he said. “Maybe it takes a few discussions with the state legislature to change the dynamic and give us more tools in our toolbox to better lead growth.”
Past discussions on how to appropriately respond to rapid growth ultimately culminated in the Williamson 2040 Plan approved in 2020. This plan approved the downgrading of some unincorporated rural areas from one unit per acre to one unit per five acres.
“One of the toughest votes I’ve had since I’ve been on (the commission) was one house per five acres because I’m a property rights specialist,” Landrum said. “But at the same time, if you’re driving and you see the rural aspect…to see that, that’s important.”
For the full forum recording, visit the Williamson County YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQHmFv9rPRY&t=4707s.
Anika Exum is a reporter covering Williamson County at The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY – Tennessee Network. Reach her at [email protected], 615-347-7313 or on Twitter @aniexum.
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