By CHRISTIAN MARNON
Jeff Graves is challenging Ward 2 incumbent, Jonathan Duda, in the upcoming municipal election. The Summit High School teacher says that a vote for him is an opportunity for change in Spring Hill.
“My opponent has been on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for the last 12 years,” Graves said. “He has been heavily involved in how our city has been developed and the things that have happened here—both the good and the bad. If you’re happy with the way Spring Hill is, with the traffic and with the development, then I might not be the guy for you. But if you’re not happy with the way Spring Hill is, I would ask you to consider voting for me.”
Graves was born in Nolensville and has lived in Williamson County the majority of his life. He officially moved to Spring Hill in 2009, where now resides with his wife and two children. Prior to becoming a teacher at Summit, he earned a Masters in Divinity—scholarship he currently applies to teaching a History of the Bible course alongside AP Government at Summit High.
Spring Hill Home Page spoke with Graves about his vision for Spring Hill moving forward.
The population of Spring Hill continues to rapidly increase. Going forward, what is needed to properly balance infrastructure needs with development and population growth?
“When we talk about infrastructure, most people think about roads. For me to balance that out, we have to focus and invest not only in roads, which are always important, but we have to invest in our water system and our emergency services. Just the sheer fact that we’re growing means that there will be an increase in crime and emergency calls for fire structure. We have to invest in, and increase and expand [those services]. We can’t neglect them and just focus on roads. If we do, we put ourselves in a situation where we can’t provide for the safety or basic necessities of the residents.
From a development side, the current BOMA has done a good job of playing catch-up on the north side of the city. However, we can’t neglect the south side. We have to play ‘get ahead’ down there. We have to widen the roads and get the infrastructure in place before the development comes. Then, when the development comes, roads and traffic aren’t an issue because the infrastructure is already there. We have to require the developers to make the city a better place. If they’re going to come build and make money, which is great, we have to hold them responsible for making the city a better place.”
Beyond traffic and development what will you do to improve the quality of life in Spring Hill?
“First, we need to invest in our fire and police. Not only do they need new stations and equipment, they need to be paid what they’re worth in salaries. Currently, I don’t think the city pays them nearly what they’re worth and it’s hard for us. We can give them all the [supplies and facilities], but if we’re not paying them competitively with other cities, we can’t retain them. Metro is hiring 180 firefighters now and Franklin has adjusted their pay to be competitive with Metro… If you can’t compete with them, you can’t attract quality candidates and you have trouble providing the basic services needed.”
Graves added that improving Spring Hill’s parks and recreation options is also critical.
“We also need parks and recreation space. I coach here at the high school and help coach my son’s baseball team. I see the kids on the waiting list and the [limited] space to use the parks. We just need more, especially on the north side of town. We also need parks and rec on the Williamson County side and the Maury County side. In general, we need active parks and ball fields where the kids can go play.”
Spring Hill often gets designated as a “bedroom community,” a place where residents may live and sleep, but who ultimately commute to other cities where they also purchase commodities. What do you think is needed for Spring Hill to transcend that designation?
“We have to focus on using our resources to bring in those white collar business, those jobs where people cannot only say it’s nice to live here, but that it’s also nice to work here. This [would] address some of the traffic issues because it keeps people in Spring Hill and it increases our tax base. If you have people staying in Spring Hill and working here, those business will be paying taxes. Those people will be going to lunch in Spring Hill rather than elsewhere. I heard Victor Lay say we have approximately $150 million spent outside Spring Hill that could be spent in Spring Hill. We have to focus on bringing jobs to the city. When we do that, we expand our tax base. Not only are our residents have a way to provide for their family, but we’re bringing in money that can be used to tackle those larger infrastructure problems.”
Tell me about your professional background and how it will translate to your public service as an Alderman.
“As a teacher, I interact with students every day and we discuss how our government is supposed to be set up and how it’s supposed to be run. Within that, you have issues of overseeing classroom management and evaluating whether students are meeting the learning targets you set out for them. This is similar to the oversight of the employees BOMA has to evaluate. As a teacher, you are a public employee because not only do you teach in the classroom and know the students, but you are known throughout the community whether you’re in church, at the store, or at the ball fields. People you don’t know know you and they’re watching to see how you react and steward what’s been given to you. On BOMA, you’re a steward of the city resources. So I think being a steward of my classroom, translates to making sure the resources BOMA oversees are used to the best of their ability and in the best way possible.”