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Mayoral hopefuls say jobs top county issue

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By KALYN SHELLYThe Wilson Post

The three candidates vying for Wilson County Mayor presented their views yesterday morning at a forum hosted by the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce at Cumberland University.

Candidates Don Fox, Randall Hutto and Phillip Warren participated in a question and answer discussion led by Chris Crowell, vice chair of the government relations committee for the Chamber.

All three candidates agreed that creating jobs is the first major issue facing the county along with fire protection and emergency service.

On a question posed about solving the issue of fire protection across Wilson County, two of the three candidates, Fox and Hutto, primarily focused on Mt. Juliet saying that there are a couple of options to help solve this problem, one being for the City of Mt. Juliet to create its own fire department and the second contracting with county government for fire protection and emergency services.

Fox and Hutto said they believe the decision on this issue rests with Mt. Juliet's City Commission as to which route they should choose. Warren said, "not one size fits all" and this is not just an issue for Mt. Juliet but is inclusive of all of Wilson County. He added that there are lots of ways to address the issue across the county.

On the challenge of the county facing a decrease in property values and therefore declining revenue from property taxes, each candidate suggested ways to cut spending.

Hutto said that he would call upon each county department to perform a self audit to see where to cut spending in their budget. He urged residents and government officials to "take the time to communicate their wants and needs" in order to "encourage unity" across Wilson County.

Hutto said if elected, he would use his resources to "encourage communication and help get everyone on the same page." He said he would host regular meetings with department heads to "learn their goals."

"There needs to be clear communication on what the agenda is so we can come together and work as a community," Hutto said.

Fox placed the responsibility for this issue "on the people spending the money, not the taxpayers." He said he would challenge county departments to take a 1 percent cut if that was the amount necessary in order to balance the county budget. If the requirement was more, he said he would ask for additional cuts.

He also specifically focused on the development of the area around the Nashville Superspeedway. He said the Speedway has been "neglected" and he proposed that if elected, he would create a committee to see that things "get done" in the area creating an increase in revenue and jobs for the county. In another response to the same issue Fox said, if elected, he would not accept compensation for chairing county commissions or committees.

"I see Wilson County is at a standstill. We need a different kind of leadership to instill a new spirit," Fox said.

Warren said if elected, he wants to "offer something different" and would help come up with innovative ways to help all parts of the county with their needs. He said since announcing his candidacy, citizens have approached him with ideas and he wants to "provide them the opportunity to be heard."

"We need to actually talk about issues. It's not about me, it's about Wilson County and I plan to make it a better place," Warren said.

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