JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The next Washington County Commission will have a familiar look as nearly half of the 15 commissioners appear headed back for additional terms now that the filing deadline has come and gone without them facing any opposition.
Add in Larry England, who resigned in 2020 when he moved to another district but is running unopposed for a seat this year, and the commission is guaranteed to have more than half its seats filled by people who served at least part of the current term.
Seven incumbents face no opposition in either the May 3 primary or the Aug. 4 general election. Six others chose not to run — including two who are vying for countywide offices — and a seventh, Mike Ford, died late last year.
England, who stepped down from the commission in Sept. 2020, is running unopposed for the 7th District seat he held up to that point and that Larry Cate was appointed to after England’s resignation. Cate is not seeking election.
A review of the Washington County Election Commission (WCEC) website shows just one incumbent who’s chosen to run again will face any opposition. Republican Freddie Malone, who represents the 8th District, will face Independent Scott Keith Holly in the general election.
Aside from the incumbents set to cruise to re-election, the overall field also includes two former commissioners in addition to England. Only the 1st, 2nd, 12th and 15th districts are guaranteed to have first-time commissioners.
Among those who will vie for returns to the commission after previously serving is former Johnson City Mayor David Tomita, who served two terms on the county commission including a stint simultaneously serving on the Johnson City Commission.
Tomita also unsuccessfully sought the 2018 Republican nomination for Washington County mayor, losing in the primary to Joe Grandy. He’s running unopposed in the May primary in District 10 but will face Democrat Ben Putland and Independent Donald Feathers Jr. in the August general election. Phil Carriger currently represents the 10th District but is not seeking re-election.
Another possible returnee is Todd Hensley, who served one term from 2014-2018. Hensley faces Josh Edens, in the Republican primary with the winner unopposed in the general election. Josh Edens is the son of current 4th District Commissioner Danny Edens.
Edens is stepping down from the commission after four terms and running against Cheryl Storey for the County Clerk position being vacated by the retiring Kathy Storey (no relation).
Races featuring first-time candidates include a faceoff in the 1st District Republican primary between Richard Tucker and Isaac Moore. Incumbent Steve Light isn’t running for re-election in the district that covers parts of western Washington County including Limestone.
Tucker owns a drywall business and Moore owns a moving and mowing business.
The 2nd District primary pits Marty Johnson, a Jonesborough farmer, against Jason Day, a local realtor who is chair of the Washington County School Board. Billy Austin, an Independent, will face the winner in the August general election. Incumbent Kent Harris chose not to run for re-election.
The 12th District seat has been vacated by Robbie Tester, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Joe Grandy in the Republican primary. Lewis Wexler Jr. and Larry Grogan face off in the Republican primary for Tester’s seat. Wexler is part-owner of Free Service Tire and Grogan is a financial planner. The winner will be unopposed in August.
The 15th District seat is open following the Dec. 2021 death of Mike Ford. The winner of the Republican primary between Mark Rice and Ben Carder will be unopposed in the general election. Carder is a farmer in Sulphur Springs and supervisor for the Washington County Soil Conservation District.
Current commissioners who are running unopposed include:
- Jerome Fitzgerald of the 3rd District. Fitzgerald is in his first term and is on the public safety and public works committees and the water task force.
- Bryan Davenport of the 5th District. Davenport is in his second term and is on the health, education and welfare (HEW) committee, the committee on committees, the water task force and is chair of the public works committee.
- Greg Matherly of the 6th District. Matherly, the commission chair, is serving his seventh term on the commission and is on the public works, agriculture extension and employee compensation and benefits committees.
- Suzy Wiliams of the 9th District. Williams is serving her first term and is on the health, education and welfare and the employee compensation and benefits committees.
- Jodi Jones of the 11th District. The only Democrat on the commission, Jones is in her first term and serves on the commerce, industrial and agriculture (CIA) committee, the HEW committee (which she chairs) and the county owned property and committee on committees. She’s also on the county board of health and the Johnson City Development Authority board.
- Ken Huffine of the 13th District. Huffine was appointed to replace Gary McAllister in 2020. He serves on the CIA, employee benefits and compensation, investment, public safety and purchasing committees as well as the Washington County Regional Planning Commission.
- Jim Wheeler of the 14th District. Wheeler is in his first term. He serves on the budget, HEW, rules and committee on committees and chairs the public safety committee. He also serves on the regional planning commission.