As the newly seated Walker County Board of Commissioners embarks on a new trajectory for the county, just one of its big priorities will be continuing the course of action of ridding the county of tens of millions of dollars in financial debt accumulated more than the years.

The initial regularly scheduled assembly of the comprehensive board is Jan. 14, but specific interviews before the reality confirmed that as a common emphasis spot.

When Commission Chairman Shannon Whitfield initial took office environment in 2017 as the county’s Sole Commissioner, the county held around $70 million in financial debt. Above his initially 4 decades in workplace, that has been introduced down to underneath $30 million, but there is nevertheless a approaches to go.

“If we keep and maintain these ideas and procedures [and] maintain on the suitable observe monetarily, we have the potential to be totally out of debt in 4 a long time and forever quit pushing this personal debt to the subsequent era,” Whitfield reported.

The county transitioned to a 5-member board on Jan. 1. People voted to install the new variety of federal government in 2018, right after 60 decades with there remaining only a single elected official at the helm — probably seen as far too a great deal electricity coupled with a absence of transparency in the eyes of residents, primarily next mounting budgetary considerations, claimed Whitfield.

He is now joined by District 2’s Mark Askew, who was authorized as vice chairman of the new board on Jan. 4 Robert Blakemore of District 1, Brian Hart of District 3 and Robert Stultz of District 4, who were being all elected in November 2020.

Hart stated he believes Whitfield has finished a good task and that the extra board customers can further more aid get the county in a much better money position.

“[One of my campaign platforms] was to continue on Commissioner Whitfield’s hard work to pay back down the debt that we have incurred from administrations past to him,” stated Hart. “He is done a really good work and I want to see us keep on to chip away at that till it is with any luck , long gone.”

Other frequent plans amid the new commissioners are to make improvements to infrastructure these types of as roadways and to supply transparency and accountability to citizens and to each individual other as a board.

“With a Sole Commissioner, I feel additional can slip by way of the cracks because there is no person to prevent them for each se, but with a board of commissioners, we’re going to be 5 various individuals sitting down on the board so it is really heading to be a little extra clear,” Blakemore claimed. “Transparency is one particular of the major points for the board and currently being a voice for the individuals, not for ourselves.”

But, while they share collective aspirations, each and every board member has precise district constituents and considerations they claimed they also hope to prioritize throughout their phrases.

As a member of the medical subject, Stultz said his biggest precedence will be encouraging the group get via COVID-19. He also hopes to deal with considerations about prescription drug misuse, as well as agriculture, a big side of his district.

“I want to guarantee that agriculture and farmers are not burdened by any limits that would hamper their livelihood or their farming heritage,” he claimed. “I’m a significant advocate for our farmers and our agriculture folks [and] I just want to guarantee that they are not hampered by in excess of-regulation of their marketplace.”

For Blakemore, streets and transportation, primarily in the Rossville area of his district, will be a big portion of his concentrate while on the board.

“I assume one of the main things is having treatment of the roadways in Rossville [that] obviously have to have revitalization, so I will be doing work hand in hand with the town to make that come about,” he mentioned. “The main matter is to rebuild the Highway Office to give the folks the expert services that they want.”

With Hart’s background doing work in county govt and construction, he feels that sources ought to be allotted to support deliver improved work opportunities and wages to the county and to make improvements to current infrastructure.

” Infrastructure is not carried out when you create it,” stated Hart. “If you make a new road, you’re not done with it you have to preserve it. So we have to have courses in spot to aid us proceed to retain our infrastructure.”

Although Whitfield will continue on overseeing the county government’s working day-to-working day operations as chairman, likely forward he claimed his most important hope is that the board can establish camaraderie and stick to their priorities to carry on to make improvements to the county.

“[I hope] we have a collaboration of doing the job jointly, not in opposition to each other and to proceed on the pathway of personal debt elimination,” Whitfield mentioned. “And that we make advancements to the providers that we provide, to the quality of lifestyle that we have in this local community, to shifting in a beneficial direction but also finding out from the previous blunders and make certain that we never repeat that historical past of previous blunders and incorrect economic administration of our county.”

Stultz thinks the changeover course of action will be aided by the personalized relationships with one particular another the new commissioners had prior to getting elected to the board.

“I believe we’re heading into this individually recognizing just about every other and being aware of every other’s strengths,” he said when requested about the transition in December. “And moving forward, I feel which is going to really enhance our connection in buy to get matters performed for the county, simply because we all regard every other, and I sense as although the transition will be clean and we can shift forward for the betterment of the county.”

Whitfield, Hart and Stultz ended up elected to provide four-yr conditions, even though Askew and Blakemore will in the beginning only provide for two many years to place the county on an election agenda the place two commissioners will be on the ballot each individual two many years for whole four-yr phrases.

The new board fulfills every other week, on the second and fourth Thursdays of just about every thirty day period, at 7 p.m.

Get hold of Tierra Hayes at [email protected]