Eddie Yokley is the Democratic candidate for Greene County Mayor.
Yokley, 62, of 1046 Old Kentucky Road, S., Greeneville, has been a farmer, real estate broker and auctioneer in Greene County for more than 30 years.
He also has factory experience at American Enka Corp. and Franklin Furtniture Company. He owned his own Real Estate Company, Auction & Appraisal Business.
He is a South Greene High School graduate, with a Bachelor of Science degree in business and geography from East Tennessee State University.
He served in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., as a Military Intelligence Photo Interpreter and Paratrooper. He is a three-year Vietnam-era veteran.
Yokley served from 1992 to 2004 as Greene County Assessor of Property, and was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives 11th District seat from 2002 to 2010.
He has been awarded the 2011 Boys & Girls Club National Service to Youth Award, the 2006 Silver Bayonet Award from Tennessee Amvets, the 2004 Greeneville-Greene County Extra Mile Award and the 2003 Legislator of the Year Boys & Girls Club of Tennessee Award.
In 2002, he was recognized by the Modern Woodmen of America for public service, and was named Greeneville Relator of the Year in 1984 and 1986. He was selected one of the top 10 Jaycee Presidents in Tennessee in 1989.
He is a past Discom Soldier of the month for the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell.
He is a board member of the Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville & Greene County and is past president of the West Point Military Academy Parents Club. He is charter president of the Lost State of Franklin Jaycees.
He is also past president of the Greeneville Board of Realtors, and of the Nathanael Greene Museum, as well as past director of the Tennessee Association of Realtors.
He is married to Caroyln Sanders Yokley, and they have two children: Captain Jordan Yokely, M.D., 31, and Tyler Yokley, 26.
Yokley provided the following answers to these questions asked of all the County Mayor candidates by The Greeneville Sun:
Sun: If the current Greene County Commission is unable to come to an agreement on the proposed 2014-2015 budget by Sept. 1, the budget will be decided by the new legislative body. What action would you recommend for the budget, which faces over a $1 million deficit: cuts to services, a tax increase or a combination of both?
Yokley: First, I hope that the commission will finish the budget and address the problems that exist that they were elected to complete during their terms prior to Sept. 1.
The $1 million deficit is only a portion of the problem. The new mayor and commissioners will inherit reserve fund balances that are several million dollars short. The county bond rating is subject to downgrading due to credit worthiness dropping due to those reserves that were spent.
If this happens, downgrading will cause the interest rate on Greene County's bonds to increase, costing all taxpayers potentially for several years since that rating is done on trends using years, not one year.
This is not good! And don't forget that they are potentially proposing laying off employees, closing the annex one day a week or equivalent, and cutting the General Fund employees' pay approximately 20 percent, and not funding various organizations which were usually funded, just to get to the $1 million deficit.
The new mayor and commission will assume an awesome responsibility with many financial problems that cannot be resolved in a year or two.
My experience in state government and local government, business, factory work, farmwork, community organizations, military, raising a family, in church, being a taxpayer, having common sense, and willingness to work together along with these leadership positions that I've held will help me serve as your Greene County Mayor.
In laymen's terms, we cannot continue on the same course! We need to think outside the box to move our community in a more progressive direction.
The new mayor and commissioners will need to work together to produce a plan of action requiring a combination of possible cuts and revenues.
I am willing to roll up my sleeves and work with each and every commissioner to get us beyond the critical situations facing our county government. With your prayers we can work our way out of this complicated situation and improve our community.
Sun: The county faces many tough challenges in 2014 and in the next few years. Why are you interested in serving in this office at this time?
Yokley: The County Mayor is our (CEO) chief executive officer for our county. I believe I can provide the effective strong leadership that we need to move our community through its tough challenges during the next four years. I will work hard to build trust and transparency in county government.
Sun: If you are elected County Mayor, what valuable experience, training, and/or strengths will you bring to the office?
Yokley: I have listed below life experiences that relate to situations that may help me serve as mayor.
Valuable Experiences to Office:
* Designation as a "Certified Public Administrator" by the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service;
* Designated as a "Tennessee Certified Assessor" by the State Board of Equalization;
* Designated as a "Graduate Realtors Institute' by the Tennessee Realtors Institute;
* Designated a "Certified Residential Specialist" by Realtors National Marketing Institute;
* Real Estate Broker 30-plus years;
* Auctioneer 30-plus years;
* U.S. Army Military Intelligence Photo Interpretation School.
Valuable Public Office Experience:
* House State and Local Government Committee, former Vice-Chairman/Secretary;
* Local Government Subcommittee, former chairman;
* House Elections Committee, former chairman;
* Senate/House Joint Fiscal Review Committee, former member;
* House State Government Committee, former member;
* House State Government Subcommittee, former member;
* House Utilities and Banking Subcommittee, former member;
* House Commerce Committee, former member;
* Industrial Impact Committee, former member;
* Appointed to the "Police Officer and Standards Board" for the State of Tennessee by then-Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh;
* Appointed to the Southern Regional Education Board by then-Governor Phil Bredesen;
* Bachelor of Science, East Tennessee State University;
* ETSU -- completed several hours of graduate-level courses.
Sun: If you are elected, what recommendation would you expect to make about how to deal with the problem of overcrowded conditions in the Greene County Detention Center? How should your method of dealing with the problem be financed?
Yokley: Before I make any recommendations, I will research the problem and determine the options that are available. I will work to furnish the commission accurate data and information so we can resolve this issue and do what's in the best interest for our citizens.
Sun: Please explain why you believe your approach to solving the jail overcrowding issue is the best solution available.
Yokley: We are in a situation with limited resources. This issue will be a long-term and expensive commitment.
Sun: If you are elected, how would you deal with the county's budget crunch, especially the county's declining cash reserves as a result of revenue shortfalls in various county funds?
Yokley: The declining reserves shows that we are not properly funding government. We must cut costs or raise revenue or do a combination to get the reserves back within acceptable percentages.
Sun: The Greeneville-Greene County Public Library is chartered by the state as a joint responsibility of Greene County and the Town of Greeneville. Traditionally, the town matches whatever contribution to library maintenance and operations the county makes, although the Town gave somewhat more than the county in the current year. Do you support the county's financial contribution to the library? Should the amount be more than it has been in most recent years, or the same, or less? Please explain your viewpoint.
Yokley: Yes. The county should fund the library. The library is an asset for our citizens.
Sun: The county has also given some financial support over the years to several other local community agencies through general funds, including the rural volunteer fire departments, the Greeneville-Greene County Community Ministries Food Bank, the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad, and a few others, as well as supporting a number of other agencies through the hotel/motel tax. Do you support continuation of these contributions? Please explain your viewpoint.
Yokley: Yes, I support these contributions, but I think the hotel/motel tax is taxing that should benefit items related to tourism and entertainment, to encourage expansion for those entities paying the tax.
Sun: Other than the jail-overcrowding problem, what do you believe will be the three top challenges the county government will face in the coming four-year term? What is your position about what should be done in these situations?
Yokley: I think the biggest problems will be getting our budget with reserves back to where it's balanced and funded properly. The reserves have funded the budget overspending and are now depleted.
Immediate attention must be given to the reserve accounts. The present course of action will cost taxpayers extra interest and payments on bonds if not addressed immediately.
If that occurs, taxpayers will pay more taxes for absolutely nothing in return. That is not good government stewardship.
Sun: Under what circumstances, if any, might Greene County need to consider a property tax increase or a wheel tax increase?
Yokley: At some point the budget must be corrected and balanced without spending the reserves.
Sun: What role should the county government take when it comes to economic development and job growth in Greene County?
Yokley: We should be progressive and ready to create an environment for job growth through recruiting new industry and maintaining our existing industry.
Sun: What is your view of the US Nitrogen project, and the company's request for revised air and water permits, including new company-financed pipelines connecting the US Nitrogen site at Midway with the Nolichucky River?
Yokley: We need good jobs in our community. I'm not informed to what happened to cause the changes. I am always concerned to protect our environment, but it's my understanding the permits are being revised to ensure protection of our environment.
Sun: If you are elected, how open will you be to questions and concerns from the public about the way your office is being operated? How will you assure citizens that you are being fully transparent in your handling of the public's business?
Yokley: I feel that our citizens need to be informed on what's happening in our public offices and our community. I would like to see commission meetings on public TV and will see if that's possible when elected. You will always see an open door policy in my office.
Sun: Why do you believe you are best candidate for this office in this election?
Yokley: I understand that the mayor and commission will have an awesome responsibility during the next four years. My experience in county and state government gives me an experience in understanding and expertise that will help me address the management of our county government as mayor.
Sun: Brief final comment, if you wish:
Yokley: I ask for your support and vote to elect me as your next Greene County Mayor. Strong leadership is needed, and I will use my local and state government experience, my education, my business, my life experiences, and good common sense to serve as your mayor. I ask for your vote.