Early voting starts today (Feb. 10) and the election is March 1 for two countywide offices and two school board seats. It’s called an off-year election, and back when voters were smart enough to elect a school superintendent, that race was on this ballot, too.
It’s fitting that the countywide races will be decided in the Republican Primary, because one is fratricidal as Republicans struggle with what historian Bruce Wheeler termed the “otherness” of Appalachian life – the tug between modernization and tradition.
Wheeler wrote, in reference to the Butcher banking failure, “(Many openly gloated over Butcher’s fall, but others) did not want to return to the past of hostility to change, of an enormously conservative banking community, of a city closed to outsiders and new ideas.”
Wheeler simplified the contrast to Cas Walker (traditionalist) and those Cas called “the silk-stocking crowd.” Those images still work.
Property Assessor: Andrew Graybeal, the upstart, says “this office hasn’t had a fresh set of eyes in 37 years.” And then he runs an endorsement ad from Glenda Strader, wife of the late ParkeyStrader, assessor from 1972 to 2000.
John Whitehead was Parkey’s deputy and served as assessor from 2000-08 until term-limited. He hired Parkey as his chief deputy, even while he served in the Legislature, until Strader’s death in 2009.
Former county commissioner Phil Ballard was elected and has served from 2008-16, now term-limited. Jim Weaver is his chief deputy. Weaver won’t say whether he will hire Ballard, which probably means he will.
Graybeal says too many assessments are too high. High assessments are never the problem. Property owners will appeal those. The corruption comes from assessments that are too low, giving special property owners a break while shifting taxes to homeowners and farms.
There are no silk stockings in this crowd. Just pick a Cas.
Law Director: Nathan Rowell wears silk stockings, while Bud Armstrong’s socks have holes – he’s been working a lifetime to pull himself up by those socks and bootstraps.
Financial disclosures show Rowell funded by large donors, primarily the folks unhappy about the departure of Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre. When he talked about “the political climate,” McIntyre meant Bud Armstrong. Those same donors are all over the financial disclosures of school board candidates Grant Standefer and Reuben “Buddy” Pelot as well.
Rowell has the experience to serve as law director, but Armstrong has surprised many by handling the job well in his first term. The law director does not make policy. He or she simply gives advice, when asked, and represents the county in litigation.
Armstrong moved the delinquent tax attorney in-house, saving the county the outrageous fees paid private practitioners (including Rowell’s firm) in the past; he created a workers’ comp department and brought previously out-sourced work in-house. He’s proud of his record of winning, rather than settling, what he calls nuisance lawsuits.
Rowell says he can run the office better than Armstrong. But somehow, when perusing his donor list, we think he would just give different advice. And that, my friends, is political.