By LANDON WOODROOF
The Williamson County Primary Election will be held on May 1. This is the day that Williamson County voters will choose which County Commission candidates they want to be on the ballot for the County General Election, which will be held on Aug. 2.
Each of Williamson County’s 12 districts has two county commissioners representing it. In the primary election, two candidates from each political affiliation will be selected to appear on the general election ballot. If a political party has two or fewer candidates, those candidates will automatically get through the primary stage and on to the general election ballot.
County Commissioners serve four-year terms.
Today we look at the candidates for Williamson County Commission District 6.
Donald Barnett has seen Williamson County change a lot during the 28 years he has lived here, but he feels that change has been accelerating in the past few years.
“Mostly, I’m concerned about what I see as somewhat irresponsible and uncontrolled growth,” he said.
Now that he is retired from the information technology field, wherein he worked for organizations like Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, and most recently Williamson County Schools, Barnett said he felt he finally had the time to devote to public policy and public service.
“It requires time to do it right,” he said.
Barnett said his main focus if he should get elected will be “properly assigning the cost of our quality education.” By that he means making sure that “new development pays for new schools if they require new schools, which they do.”
This sentiment reflects Barnett’s overarching goal if he gets a seat on the County Commission.
“I am committed to keeping the schools as good or better than they are,” he said.
While Barnett has no experience in public office, he said he has been involved with many church organizations over the years and has taken the time to cultivate his keen interest in matters of public policy. That public policy interest can be seen in a number of different articles he has written for various publications, including the National Review.
Barnett has been married to his wife, Sabine, for 37 years. He has two daughters, Sonya and Emily, who both attended Williamson County Schools from kindergarten through the 12th grade.
Barnett is running as a Republican.
Brigid Day decided to run for the Williamson County Commission this year to “try to get our schools fully funded, work on the community that I love and continue to make things great for the people who are here now and the people who are going to come.”
She has no prior experience in public office, but has lived in Williamson County for 19 years and has participated in political campaigns. Most recently, she served as campaign manager for Anne McGraw during her run for the Williamson County Board of Education. She is also a member of the Leadership Brentwood Class of 2017.
Schools are at the center of Day’s attention. She thinks that some of the rhetoric around school funding has been misguided.
“I keep hearing the phrase ‘We need to cut the waste,’ but having been in the schools and working closely with teachers and with my own kids in the schools I know that there is not much that we can cut,” she said.
Day appreciates recent efforts that the County Commission and Williamson County voters have made to try to solve the school funding issues, like the sales tax referendum and educational impact fees, but doubts that they alone will be sufficient.
Instead, Day believes the county needs to find new sources of funding to properly pay for schools. One possible solution is a property tax hike.
“I think there are a lot of people in the community who are asking to pay more property taxes,” she said. “When you have groups of people with children and without children asking to pay more property tax I think that’s quite telling.”
Day works as the Adult Programming Coordinator at the John P. Holt Brentwood Library. In her spare time, she also serves as the secretary for the Tennessee Association of Vintage Baseball and as the vice president of the new Brentwood Evening Rotary Club.
Day lives with her husband, Mike, and two kids, Maggie, 13, and Nick, 11. Both attend Williamson County public schools.
Day is running as a Democrat.
Jason Grant sees the upcoming Williamson County Commission election as a hugely important moment of decision for county residents.
“I think we’re at a critical junction for the future of the county,” he said. “We’re potentially facing a threat to our quality of life. We have a very high standard quality of life right now, but we are projected to more than double in size over the next 25 years.”
“We’re all one big neighborhood,” he said. “Everyone in the county is part of this solution.”
Grant feels that one of the most crucial steps the county can take to help ensure a better future is to come up with a master plan that addresses issues like growth and infrastructure needs.
“I think we can successfully as a community, not only Brentwood but the Williamson County community, sit down and put a plan together that we can all agree to abide by that will allow us to control growth, not stop growth, but put growth where it needs to be…so it doesn’t strain our resources,” he said. “And by having a plan hopefully it will control costs.”
Grant and his wife, Caroline, have four children, Ainsley, 8, Keelyn, 6, Eva, 5, and James, 3. Grant is a certified public accountant and a real estate agent with Fridrich & Clark Realty.
He spent a good chunk of his childhood in Brentwood—he started at Scales Elementary School in the 5th grade and graduated from Brentwood High school in 1994—but then moved away for college and lived elsewhere for a number of years. He returned to Brentwood in 2003.
“We were missing something, and we wanted to move back here,” he said.
What he was missing, he said, was an incredible quality of life that he hopes to help preserve for future generations of residents.
“The county by and large will be developed over the next 25 years,” he said. “How we do that, what services we provide, and our ability to give our residents options they might not currently have, that’s what we have to do.”
Grant is running as an Independent.
There are six candidates for the Williamson County Commission District 6 seat alone. Ginny Kvochak is happy to have that much competition.
“I think the level of interest in this election is a positive thing,” she said. “I think having new people on the commission might spark some new ideas that when combined with the experienced members on the commission could really lead to some beneficial solutions for the county residents.”
One of the things she thinks would be most helpful for the county is greater cooperation between the County Commission and local municipal governments.
She said this level of cooperation could potentially help solve some of the county’s infrastructure problems.
“My main focus would be to work together with local planning commissioners and local governments to determine our future school infrastructure needs so we can start to be a little more proactive in being able to provide needed government services,” she said. “We have such a great quality of life here, and we would all like to maintain that.”
Kvochak is a certified public accountant for the Blankenship CPA Group in Brentwood. She has lived in Brentwood for 22 years. While she has no previous elected experience, Kvochak has volunteered at local schools over the years and at her church. She also took part in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which is an IRS program administered by the United Way of Williamson County. The program provides free tax preparation for those in need.
Kvochak has been married to her husband, John, for 36 years. They have two grown daughters, Katlyn, and Beth, who both attended Williamson County Schools.
Kvochak is running as a Democrat, but said that partisan politics should not matter much on a county level.
“I would hope on a local level that it really isn’t going to be a partisan situation,” she said. “That we all agree there are so many good things in the county; that we should work together to continue to maintain those.”
Some people wander from one city to another in their lives looking for a place to call home. Erin Nations is not one of those. She was raised within Williamson County’s District 6 in Brentwood and that is where she resides now.
Nations’s husband, Al Nations, also grew up in Williamson County and is currently a deputy in the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and a school resource officer at Lipscomb Elementary School. They live with their three children, Jack, 16, Molly, 5, and John Wiley, 19 months.
Having grown up in the area, Nations has some clearcut ideas about what makes Williamson County special. She is running for the County Commission to try to preserve those things.
“My specific interests are keeping taxes low, keeping the public school system as excellent as it is and keeping our low crime rates,” she said. “I think those three things come together and make Williamson County the best place to live and raise a family, and it’s really important to me to maintain those standards.”
Of those topics, Nations is especially focused on schools.
“Schools are my top priority and school safety is something that’s really piqued my interest,” she said. “I think we can do more to keep our schools safer and having a husband who is a school resources officer at Lipscomb really gives me some special insight into that.”
Nations also feels that the county can prioritize its spending better, eliminating waste and directing the savings to the schools.
“I think we can find some better ways to spend our money as a county and focus a lot of those funds on our kids,” she said.
Nations is an attorney at a small law firm in Franklin. While she has never held elected office before, she has always been interested in local politics and served on the executive committee of the Williamson County Young Republicans for a while.
Nations is running as a Republican.
Since Paul Webb and his wife, Pat, moved to Brentwood in 1983, Paul has put together a lengthy resume of public service.
Among other things, he sat on Brentwood’s Library Board for many years and in 2005 was elected to Brentwood’s City Commission, where he served as both vice mayor and mayor. During his time on the City Commission, he was also a member of the Regional Transit Association and the Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Webb has been on the Williamson County Commission since 2014 and currently serves as chair of the county Budget Committee. He is also currently Brentwood’s representative on the Buffalo River Regional Library Board.
That’s a full resume, especially on top of Webb’s job as the business administrator at Westminster Presbyterian Church, but Webb finds all that work gratifying rather than overwhelming.
“Being an elected official gives me an opportunity to sit at the table and help solve the problems that come before the county,” Webb said. “I enjoy that challenge, and I enjoy the service. Working for a church we would call it a calling. So I feel called to public service.”
That calling has led Webb to feel especially passionate about two issues this election season.
“I truly want to represent the City of Brentwood’s interests before the County Commission, and I want to maintain the quality of life in Williamson County, which includes maintaining those outstanding public schools and everything that goes into Williamson County,” he said.
This election features the largest field of candidates that Webb can remember facing. To Webb, that is a good thing.
“I hope to be reelected, but I appreciate people getting involved,” he said.
Before his present career, Webb served in the United States Air Force. After that, he and Pat attended college at Tennessee Tech where they both got degrees in accounting.
The couple has three sons, Austin, Jason and Adam, and three grandchildren.