Mayor Bailey Looks Ahead

Mayor Jason Bailey

On Saturday, August 25, 2018, Dr. Jason Bailey was sworn into office as Mayor of Union County. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Bailey to discuss his ideas and plans for the county. After our discussion, it became obvious that Dr. Bailey and HistoricUnionCounty.com have one goal in common: to promote all the positive attributes of Union County.

During our chat, I learned that Mayor Jason Bailey developed an interest in politics and county government when he was in college. “I worked at the Court House for Chancery Court and it just really fascinated me on how all the different departments worked together and how the government worked,” said Bailey.

As Bailey grew older, his interest in government increased. He had been watching local politics and knew Mayor Williams would not run for re-election. “I thought, you know what? This is my shot,” said Bailey. After praying about it and giving it much thought, Bailey made the decision to run for Mayor of Union County and prepared himself to leave his rewarding job with the school system if elected. “That was a tough decision, leaving a great job that I had down there, if I was elected. I prayed about it and got my answer that this is what I needed to do,” said Bailey.

Now that the election is over, Bailey is ready to get started. He advocates communication and getting along with others as one of his strengths. “I think I’m really good at getting along with people and helping others to get along. I’ve learned that along the way. In all the different areas I’ve been involved in, you have to be able to communicate, talk to people and listen. Obviously, as principal of the school you have to communicate with your staff, your students, your parents and your community,” replied Bailey.

And he is going to do just that. Soon after the dust settles, he is wanting to have town hall meetings in every district to find out what the biggest needs are. His desire is to meet in a common area like a school or community center with the commissioners and citizens. Bailey said that the idea is just to sit down and have a brain storming session to find out the needs and what they can do for each district.

In addition, Mayor Bailey has recently been meeting with Ann Dyer to discuss county finances and learn the inner workings of the finance department. Bailey said, “Ann runs a very tight ship.” He agrees with most that centralized financing has been wonderful for Union County. “I think centralized finance is probably one of the best things we have ever done in this county. I know Mayor Williams put that together and I applaud him for that. And I think placing Ann there is a really awesome thing. I think she does fantastic. I don’t see any changes,” said Bailey.

Mayor Bailey is also on board to get new and updated parks in Union County. “Parks and recreation are a huge part of the county,” said Bailey. Currently, Union County is working with the Parks and Recreation board in developing a strategic plan for our parks. The previous administration completed the parks recreation survey and Mayor Bailey is ready to take the next step. Bailey thinks the new and updated parks will provided more opportunities for recreation for kids and adults. The parks and recreation board gathered input from the community in a series of meetings and now Mayor Bailey is ready to do what he can to get new parks in our county.

Another project that has been in the works for some time and one that Mayor Bailey feels is of high importance is bringing high speed broadband internet access to Union County. And according to Bailey, it is part of our economic growth as well as industrial development and is needed to bring in jobs. County officials have been meeting with Sunset Digital and looking into a plan to provide high speed broadband internet access to areas of the county where it is currently unavailable. “It needs to happen; has to happen in order for us to grow,” said Bailey. Sunset Digital is looking to install a fiber backbone in the Sharps Chapel area as well as Maynardville and around the Hickory Valley area. Mayor Bailey says, “We are on the right path to getting that done.”

In addition to having high speed broadband internet access, we also need the infrastructure to support industrial manufacturers. “I want to get that going as soon as possible,” said Bailey. Having a direct four lane highway to the interstate will be a huge selling point for the county. In addition to improving Highway 33, TDOT is wanting to straighten out some of the curves on Highway 61. Improvements to both of these highways will expand the opportunity for job growth in Union County.

While talking with Mayor Bailey, one thing was clear: Bailey wants to bring jobs to Union County. Improving broadband, fixing our roads and providing the utilities that big businesses are looking for all tie together to attract new businesses. “Your bigger companies look at your trained work force,” said Bailey. TCAT (Tennessee College of Applied Technology), a post-secondary vocational training school, can provide the skilled workers businesses are looking for.

Currently, the county and the school system are working together to bring TCATs to Union County. A lot of kids are interested in vocational training and they can get it for free with Tennessee Promise. “I want it here as quick as possible. I think the faster we can get it here, the more it’s going to open up for industry to come in, the more we are going to get our kids trained. And our kids are going to be able to stay in this county to work,” said Bailey. He also indicated TCATs is not just for students but anyone wanting to build the skill set employers are looking for. And after TCATs is in place, then why not check into a Walters State or a Pellissippi State Community College.

With all of this new growth, some issues are going to intensify and parking around the court house will be one of those. Bailey thinks the Ailor Property is ideal, but it may not be the most financially smart move for the county due to the condition of the building and the asbestos that it contains. According to Mayor Bailey, there may be additional options. Other properties around the court house may be acquired such as a strip in front of the court house, the property next to the EMS building and the street just behind the court house that could be repurposed.

Another issue that will intensify with population growth is the overcrowded jail. Bailey agrees that we need a new jail and must get creative in our efforts to fund its construction. “When your county grows so does your inmate population,” said Bailey. He also believes that when you build a new building it is important to repurpose the old one.

His goal is to see Union County become proactive instead of reactive. It is inevitable; we will need funding. By being proactive, Mayor Bailey believes we can save for the day when we need a building. By setting aside small amounts of funds over a long period of time, we help prevent the need to raise taxes or implement wheel taxes.

An immediate concern for many Union County citizens is the Court House’s lack of ADA compliances. Mayor Bailey agrees we have to be ADA compliant. Whatever we have to do to make the building ADA compliant just has to be done. We are a public building that receives state funds and federal funds; we have to be ADA compliant said Bailey. This is something Mayor Bailey wants to work closely with commissioners on.

Originally, making the court house ADA compliant and flipping the Court House entrance was two separate projects that got lumped together. His goal is to separate the projects and bring the courthouse into compliance first.

“Say you have a citizen coming in to pay their taxes, and they have a hard time getting in that back door and up the elevator to Gina’s office. That’s unacceptable. It’s a public building. It’s for our citizens. It has to be accessible to all,” said Mayor Bailey.

Mayor Bailey says he’s not in it for the political gain or the title of Mayor. He’s in it because he wants the best for Union County and he wants to see the county grow.

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Robert Bruce Kezer

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Thomas Michael McLaughlin

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Frances Jane Nichols

Frances Jane Nichols “Janey”, age 61, of Rockford, went to be with the Lord on February 8, 2019, surrounded by her loved ones. She was a beloved mom, sister, and granny. Preceded in death by parents Jack Huggins and Bernice Van Dyke, brother Jackie Huggins, sisters Sarah Munsey, Sandy Huggins, and Darlene Dunaway.

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