Longtime Hamilton Co leader loses election
In Hamilton County, it's an end of an era for one long-time commission chairman.
Wednesday, May 7th 2014, 4:44 pm EDT
SODDY-DAISY, TN (WRCB) - In Hamilton County, it's an end of an era for one long-time commission chairman. Soddy-Daisy's Fred Skillern has clocked in more than three decades in various political roles. Now he's been unseated from the commission after 13 consecutive years.
Newcomer Randy Fairbanks will soon represent District One, which covers the northern part of Hamilton County. He won by a narrow 51 votes. No democrats ran in the primary, so he'll be the only name on the ballot during August's general election. That means he'll slide right into the seat Fred Skillern has occupied since 2001. Skillern has served in other local leadership roles since the 70's.
After more than 30 years in the Hamilton County political game, current Commission Chairman Fred Skillern lost his seat.
"I would think you'd find it hard to find anyone that wasn't surprised," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said.
Skillern declined an on camera interview, but says a big reason for the loss comes down to money. Each commissioner gets $100,000 every year to spend how and when they want on their districts. He said he liked to let it accumulate for large projects later, but that garnered complaints from many taxpayers who wanted to see their money put to use more often. Commissioner-elect and local accountant Randy Fairbanks says that's what he plans to do.
"They need to be spent all along each year and not held back because the schools were in dire need of that money," Randy Fairbanks said.
Another campaign promise is being "more accessible" to the community. This commission race is Fairbanks' first win, though not his first political campaign. He previously ran for trustee and state representative and lost. He says his decision to aim for Skillern's seat was motivated by the voters.
"Some people came to me and said 'Could you be interested in running? We maybe want some new leadership,' so we took it on and went for it," Fairbanks said.
Over the years, Skillern was involved in multiple controversies, from his role in many firings and hirings in government positions to outbursts when votes didn't go his way and remarks in 2011 that some considered racist.
Still, local leaders say he'll leave a respected legacy for all he did to benefit the county.
"At the end of the day, you have to be grateful for a man that has put in so much time of public service over the many, many years. And congratulations to Randy Fairbanks for his campaign and his victory," Mayor Coppinger said.
Part of Skillern's legacy will continue at Memorial Health Care System, where last December he gave a $3 million personal donation in honor of his son who died of cancer.