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Kingsport leaders not moving election date

Matthew Lane • Jun 2, 2020 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT — The Model City is sticking with tradition when it comes to its municipal elections.

During a work session Monday afternoon, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen informally agreed to not move its city election date from May in odd years to either August or November in even years.

A majority of the board was either opposed to or had no strong feeling about moving the date. Mayor Pat Shull, Alderman Darrell Duncan and Alderman Tommy Olterman voiced support in moving Kingsport's election date.

As it stands now, Kingsport's next city election will take place on May 18, 2021.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Kingsport's city election is held in May of an odd year every two years with four of seven seats on the ballot — the mayor and three aldermen.

The idea of moving Kingsport's election day to coincide with the national elections came up earlier this year with the BMA publicly discussing the matter at two work sessions with Sullivan County Election Commissioner Jason Booher.

Booher previously told the BMA a change would increase voter turnout by 29-35% and save Kingsport the cost of holding a separate election, about $30,000 to $35,000.

However, several members of the BMA said on Tuesday they heard little to no support for such a move from the community.

HOW THE BMA STANDS

Mayor Pat Shull said he supports moving Kingsport's election day to November of an even year. It would save money and ensure greater voter turnout. “If we didn't like it, we could change it back very easily.”

Vice Mayor Colette George: “Based on what I've heard from all of the people I've talked to, they like the election in May. They're used to it in May. It sets us apart and the focus is more on local issues.”

Alderwoman Jennifer Adler: “I've talked to a few citizens, and the vast majority are in favor of leaving it as it is. There's power in history and precedence and preserving what has worked.”

Alderwoman Betsy Cooper: “I've no strong feeling either way ... but I”m leaning more towards leaving it the way it is.”

Alderman Darrell Duncan said the $35,000 saved could be put back into the budgets of many special programs the city supports annually, such as Keep Kingsport Beautiful, the Downtown Kingsport Association and Symphony of the Mountains. “It gets us in line with other cities and simplifies it.”

Alderman James Phillips: “Originally, I was all for moving it. To echo Jennifer and Colette, the feedback I received was don't move it. I've not heard from anyone who says we should move it.”

Alderman Tommy Olterman: “I don't think it's fair to have someone come on the board and the next thing be faced with is a budget.”

Olterman, who last month said he would go along with the majority of the board on this issue, soon after said the matter should be taken to the public.

Shull said the matter has been discussed at multiple public meetings, in straight news reporting and an editorial.

“If the public doesn't know about it, it's not for a lack of trying,” Shull said.

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