By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

A crowd of almost 80 people listened to both candidates for Trousdale County Mayor address their visions for the county’s future during last Thursday’s ‘Meet the Candidate’ forum.

The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event, which was held at the courthouse and open to any candidate for office in Trousdale County. The event was also broadcast live by WTNK.

Both sitting mayor Carroll Carman and challenger Stephen Chambers received three minutes to speak to voters.

Photos by Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Carroll Carman, left, and Stephen Chambers, right, each spoke at last week’s ‘Meet the Candidate’ Forum, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

“I have endeavored to do everything I could in that office to try to challenge the status quo,” Carman said. “We need to see some change, some renovations, to make things better and we’ve tried to do that.”

Carman noted that county employee salaries had risen by an average of 18.5 percent over the last four years, saying, “When I entered office, it was sad to see what a lot of our people were making.”

Economic development was another area Carman trumpeted success in, citing the arrival of both CoreCivic’s prison and ARC Automotive during his term.

“Those are good jobs and that is money flowing into our county,” he said.

Chambers said he would fight for Trousdale County with the same zeal that he uses to serve his clients as an attorney.

“As I’ve gone around the county, I’ve heard that we need more jobs,” Chambers said. “People are concerned about rising taxes and that county government needs to be more mindful of spending.

“When spending taxpayer money, our first priority should be funding core government services such as law enforcement, schools and roads. Beyond that, we need to determine if it’s something we should do and if it’s something we can afford.”

Chambers said he wanted to use new procedures and technologies as mayor to make county government more efficient as well.

With regards to jobs, Chambers noted that 61 percent of Trousdale County residents must go outside the county to work. He said his experience with the Industrial Development Board and the board of Tennessee Central Economic Authority gave him the ability to both help existing businesses and lure new business into Trousdale County.

Both candidates took a set of prepared questions from Chamber Director Natalie Knudsen on what qualified them to serve as mayor, what a mayor could do to bring jobs and their plans for the county.

“We have brought quite a few jobs, although many of those were already on the way when I became mayor,” Carman said. “We need to make our community something that everyone wants to be part of.”

“We need to look at what other counties have done,” Chambers said while citing Wilson County as an example. “We can also see about State Route 141… Once that next piece of 141 is done, it puts us in greater competition to attract bigger businesses.”

Chambers said he wanted to encourage greater citizen input on the future of Trousdale County and see what are the county’s most pressing needs.

“When you listen to your citizens, I think 8,500 people can come up with a lot of ideas versus me as one person,” Chambers said.

Carman said his plan was “to keep the momentum rolling” if re-elected to a second term.

He noted over $20 million in grants and loans that had come in over the last four years at no cost to the taxpayer.

“This $20 million has been a great help and you’ve seen a lot of changes in the last four years. It isn’t just status quo,” Carman said. “We need to keep that momentum rolling.”

The audience also heard from 18 candidates for the County Commission, with at least one candidate from each of the 10 districts participating. Both candidates for Register of Deeds, Leah Verville and Candice Hall, also took part.

Election Day is Aug. 2.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or [email protected]