Candidates for Tullahoma Alderman and Mayor met at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center July 9 for a public forum.
Attendees had the chance to get to know all the candidates running for aldermen and mayor in both Tullahoma and Manchester in order to help make an informed decision for the Aug. 6 election.
The forum began with the candidates running for Tullahoma Aldermen: Ashli Collinsworth Shockley, Jenna Amacher and incumbent Alderman Robin Dunn. The three are running for two seats up for grabs this year.
The topics of discussion ranged from why they were running for alderman to what issue needed the most attention in Tullahoma. One question asked to the candidates was whether Tullahoma, Manchester and Coffee County governments should combine to become a metropolitan government? According to moderator Lucky Knott, the discussion of forming a metro government has come up before but it did not pass.
Amacher, Dunn and Shockley each provided a different answer and perspective to the idea of a metro government.
“Frankly, I don’t know but that is something I would have to listen to what the government wants and listen to what our citizens want,” said Shockley, “so I can’t give you a flat out yes or no, but I would do what it took to see if everyone is on the same level or not.”
Amacher said she believed the idea of creating metro government should be a decision for the citizens rather than government officials.
“I just don’t feel like that would be for us to decide. I think something like that should be a referendum of the public and the public should decide that,” said Amacher.
Meanwhile Dunn said she didn’t believe it would be happening in the near future.
“We know what it’s like to have localized control and localized say,” said Dunn. “That’s what the people of Tullahoma, Manchester and Coffee County want: we want to be able to have a county representative, a county commissioner and an alderman who we can call or walk down to their house and say ‘Hey this is what we’re concerned about.’ So I don’t anticipate it happening.”
Soon afterwards the candidates for mayor of Tullahoma came on the stage. The four currently vying for the mayor’s seat are Daniel Berry, Eugene London Jr., Ray Knowis, and Karl Smithson. Long-time incumbent Mayor Lane Curlee is not seeking reelection this year.
Like the aldermen, the mayoral candidates discussed why they were running for the seat and what they would like to do if they became mayor.
One of the highlights was the discussion of whether or not there should be rules in place, if not already, for city officials or employees regarding social media comments. Last month Berry issued a Facebook statement apologizing for controversial tweets a few years prior.
Overall, the candidates made reference to the First Amendment and said it is a person’s right to freedom of speech but they have to be held accountable.
Berry said it’s a person’s right but they have to be ready for accountability and an explanation for their comments.
“Being in the government position, I don’t think one of my things as mayor is I don’t want to come in and say ‘We’re taking your rights away.’ So, it’s your choice but be ready to be accountable for what you say and be able to have an answer,” said Berry.
In a similar tone, London said people need to be wise and respectful to one another.
“When I’m around the table with my white in-laws; my black and brown children and grandchildren and I see things that are on social media that are offensive but I still believe that person has the right to do what that person wants to do, but we have to be wise; we have to respect one another,” said London.
Knowis said everyone is accountable for what they whether they are saying it directly to someone or on social media and they will be judged for what they said.
“I never want to look back and say ‘I wish I hadn’t said that,’ but once I press that send button on that email it’s gone and out there for everyone,” said Knowis. “It’s your right and people will judge you for what you have said.”
Smithson focused more on freedom of religion in the discussion and said he was in favor of bringing back devotion in schools and bible lessons.
How to vote
For the election, voters can select their choice for mayor between the three candidates on the ballot or write-in London’s name. Voters will also be able to choose two names for Alderman and four names for school board.
Early voting for the Aug. 6 General Election takes place July 17 through Aug. 1. Residents planning to vote early will need to go to C.D. Stamps Community Center at 810 S. Jackson St.
Anyone who would rather fill out an absentee ballot can go to www.coffeecountyelectioncommission.com or www.govotetn.com to fill out a request form. Residents can also go to the Coffee County Election Commission office at 1329 McArthur St. Suite 6 in Manchester to pick a physical copy of the request form.
Kyle Murphy may be reached at email@example.com.