First, I would like to thank the good Lord above and you, the voter, for giving me the honor of serving as your county mayor for the past four years. As we approach another election, my family and I ask that you grant me another term as your mayor. Kristy, Kayla, Carsey and I want to thank you for your love and prayers through my first term of office.
I am the son of Lee Hoyt West and Shirley Faye Jenkins West. Many of you know my father and mother, who were both employed at Marlene Industries (the “Blouse Factory”) for 20 plus years. Kristy, my wife of 23 years, is the daughter of Jerry and Deborah Halliburton Towns.
My family and I have called Trousdale County home our entire lives and look forward to seeing our children follow the same path. Business has been my life since my graduation from Trousdale County High School in 1991. My approach in operating and managing begins with common sense, honesty and fairness – after this, the rest will fall into place. I try to avoid making snap decisions when possible and I try to keep an open mind to other people’s ideas and suggestions. My belief is that a leader cannot lead without the support of others.
To say it has been easy the first four years would be foolish; has it been worth it? – you’d better believe it! This is home and I’m going to fight to keep it as rock solid the next four years as we have made it the past four.
I would like to share with you some of the challenges which become accomplishments over the past 4 years:
My term of office unofficially began two weeks prior to taking office on Sept. 1, 2010. Our county trustee called me to let me know the general fund’s financial condition. I then went by her office and she showed me a not so solid, depleted checking account.
There was an official vacancy in the mayor’s office at the time, which began in June with the resignation of the previous county mayor (executive). The trustee had called to make me aware that there was not enough money in the general fund account to meet the payroll that was due my first week in office.
My first thought was, “What have I gotten myself into?” To make a long story short, we borrowed the money, got it paid back, and now, three years later, we are financially sound with nearly two million dollars in checking in the general fund. With an average monthly expense of $500,000 per month, this will provide adequate funding of expenses until we start collecting taxes again in October.
I learned early on, that I don’t need to know all the answers, just those who do. I was very fortunate to have the assistance of a very capable staff when I came into office – Debbie Jenkins and Linda Gammons who have over 40 years combined experience in county government.
Gammons has since retired to part-time employment and I am pleased to have the addition of Rene’ Scruggs Pridemore to my staff.
The tough years were supported by our commission as well with funding and budget cuts to see us out of the darkness. All of our elected officials and department supervisors have worked with me to only spend what is absolutely necessary to operate their department over the past few years.
In light of how we have stabilized the financial well-being of the county, bonuses and salary increases have been given to the employees during these times. This is something that had not happened in over seven years with some employees.
• PROPERTY MANAGEMENT
The light began to shine a little brighter on Jan. 21, 2011. After taking office, renewed talks with CCA led to collecting the much needed building permit fee totaling $250,000.
The months following brought clearing to light – literally – with the clean-up up of the fallen warehouse on Broadway that we had looked at for seven years.
We looked at methods of cleaning up the mess and took bids from professional contractors which ranged from $137,000 – $640,000. This was just not good. We were already at a $96,000 dollar loss in tax collections and to dig a deeper hole just didn’t make sense.
A look at other options paid dividends to the county by saving money. We took metal out of the rubble and sold it to junk yards to come up with revenue. In addition to this, a local contractor, Lewis Beasley and his son, brought in heavy equipment to aid in our endeavor, accepting only the fuel it took to finish the work as payment.
It took approximately two weeks to get it looking as it does today and, with the sale of metal less the expenses, the cost of the clean-up came to a total of $1,800. Yes, only one thousand eight hundred dollars.
I must mention too, Charles Beasley allowed Woody Badger to use the county loader to help with the clean-up in the beginning. This is one thing I’m proud of that happened in my first term. Saving tax dollars by being creative and watching the community come together was a blessing for me.
One of the more appropriate moves in my term came with the decision to sell the Ward School building.
The commission approved the sale of the school to the Ward School Preservation Association for $1. This decision assured that the school would have caretakers whose main objective would be the preservation of the history of the school for future generations. I appreciate the folks who make up the organization and their stand for this historic facility.
The same year, my focus was on something that would give our youth more to do in the county.
The Commission focused on appropriating money to re-open the public swimming pool. The pool had shut down due to lack of annual maintenance over the past 22 years. Today, the Parks and Recreation Department has seasonal inspections to catch potential problems early on before they become a real problem, thereby saving taxpayer dollars.
The basketball goals for many years had to be removed every spring due to parking at the ball fields. We now have a new basketball court which was used by nearly 100 people the first day after it was completed. Today, the basketball court is one of the most used areas of the park with the exception of the ball fields when Little League is going on.
• SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT
Moving into the second year, my concern was drawn to how we were operating our trash collection. A discussion with our insurance provider revealed the liability risk involved with our current method of trash collection.
This prompted the proposal to our commission for the purchase of an automated trash truck and to provide a trash cart to each customer inside the old city limits. This eliminated the handling of trash bags and back injuries, and allowed two employees to perform work in other needed areas.
Most importantly, it kept our insurance premiums from going through the roof. Public Works Director Woody Badger (now retired) and our current Public Works Director Cliff Sallee and their employees are very much appreciated for the work that they do in this important part of our government.
• EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT SERVICES
Our emergency medical service staff has always been top notch, especially with the seasoned crew we currently have. After I came into office, it did not take long to realize that the main problem with our Ambulance Service was simply management.
There was no one at the wheel to lead. The paramedics and EMT’s did their job well, but it takes much more to run a business. I’m referring to collections. Billing was outsourced at the time, and again, with no one watching the numbers, the county became overwhelmed by a backlog of overdue accounts, resulting in a loss of funds.
We now have Teresa Turner as our billing manager, and what a difference it has made! We also have been fortunate to have the appointment of Matt Batey as our EMS director to keep things on the right track.
Thanks to the committees meeting and commission approval, we have a better handle on operations and the revenue coming in from the service.
None of us will ever forget Feb. 5, 2008. This was a terrible day for many in the county. Lives lost, others wondering where their loved ones were, and most of us without power, led to a day of uncertainty.
Since that day, the county has been awarded grants to help assure better preparedness should we ever have to endure such a disaster again. One tornado siren is already in place, plans are drawn for a new fire hall, and a 2,500 square foot shelter facility is to be constructed.
Also, the county commission approved grant funds to purchase property for the construction of a communications tower in the Cato community for our police, fire and rescue. Better communications will improve services to the people in the Cato community and also, with a repeater added, a stronger signal will be sent to serve the Gravel Hill Community.
The recent commission appointment of Allen Lewis as EMA director, and his efforts to improve emergency preparedness, is bringing our county up to date with surrounding counties.
• STILL TO COME
Many more improvements have gone on during my term as mayor and continue today.
The opening of the CCA prison will be the largest event to happen here in this county since the TVA Nuclear Plant project. Increasing employment by 400 jobs will increase the productivity of this town in every aspect of life.
Many businesses will see an increase in sales once the facility is up and operating. Shift change at the facility will turn out over 200 employees to stop by for goods at local businesses.
The long hours of discussion over the past year between the county, state and CCA, will benefit the county and its citizens forever.
I visited with other counties that currently have prisons, to talk with folks in the community. The report I received from the citizens indicated that they were pleased with the facility they have and would welcome another one.
With the 1.8 million in additional tax revenue from the prison, one of my main priorities will be to freeze property taxes from any increase for anyone 65 and over in Trousdale County.
I’m looking to maintain and improve what we already have – not to go out looking to find a way to spend money just because we have it. I will say, 1.8 million is a lot of money, but it won’t go as far as you think.
We have buildings and equipment that will need replacing to maintain the services we currently provide to the people. As I watch how state funding sent to counties continues to be reduced, I have a great concern that we, the local taxpayers, will have to pick up that burden.
Again, I can’t express enough, don’t get too excited about having extra money coming our way, we have extra expenses coming from a different direction as well.
I’ve said all this to say that we do not need a change of leadership in this office at this time.
I would love to see the improvements through, and it will take another term to tie up all the ends. County management over the past four years has shown that no one in my administration has a personal agenda or seeks the authority to change rules and laws that would not benefit everyone.
To improve and grow with the changes will be my continued approach. Many newcomers have moved here for the beauty, peace and quietness of this small simple life we have here in Trousdale County.
I close by asking for your continued prayers and support for Trousdale County, the place we desire to call home forever and always. I respectfully ask for your vote on Aug. 7.