Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of three articles on the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Sullivan County highway commissioner. The primary is May 6.
Dwight King believes his experience on the Sullivan County Commission and his background in logging make him the perfect fit for the county highway commissioner’s job.
“I have experience,” King said. “I have been a county commissioner for seven years. I was on the Budget Committee for five years and the Administrative [Committee] for two years. I’m not going to have to learn how the commission works — all the nuts and bolts of the commission.”
King said he has always been the contact on the commission for the Highway Department. When the department wanted to purchase a new truck or received a state grant, he was always the person who introduced the resolution. This allowed him to develop a relationship with the department, he said.
“I was the go-to guy for the Highway Department,” King said.
After seven years, King resigned from the commission earlier this year to run for highway commissioner.
King attended East Tennessee State University after high school and studied industrial engineering. He said he learned to survey land and develop roads. The class helped plot and lay out a subdivision.
After college, King started a logging and construction business. He employs around 10 people.
King said a key part of logging was the construction of logging roads. He said there is little difference between building logging roads and constructing county roads.
“Most of our county roads at one point and time were wagon roads or logging roads,” King said. “That’s where they started and were improved.”
He said he wants to improve mowing and snow removal.
“We need to keep our right-of-ways mowed and clear for visibility purposes, and to just make our roads look good,” King said. “We need to present the area well to visitors.”
King said he wants to reallocate resources to focus on snow removal in the winter. He said crew members who mow and do other jobs in the summer can push snow in the winter.
“In the wintertime, when we have snows, I would like to see a better response time on snow removal,” King said. “I know we had some problems this year. Some of our roads didn’t get cleared. That’s important. People have to go to work. We need to keep our schools open. People just have to be able to travel.”
Over the last few years, the Highway Department has experienced a lot of turmoil. Highway Commissioner Allan Pope was convicted of a felony and forced from office while his successor, Terry Shaffer, resigned amid a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe of alleged improprieties, but a grand jury chose not to pursue criminal charges against him.
King said he wants to modernize the department and get beyond the recent problems.
“What happened in the past is the past,” he said. “I’m looking toward the future. There have been problems with the Highway Department in the past. I know that, but I’m not dwelling on what happened.”
Shortly after current Highway Commissioner Bobby Manning was appointed, he fired six employees, who have threatened to file a lawsuit. King said the employees have approached him, but he said he’s not willing to make any commitments to them regarding their jobs.
He said the matter is in the hands of the county attorney and the attorney representing the former employees.
He said some current employees are worried that he might contract out a lot of the functions of the department and lay off employees. But that’s not the case, he said.
He said Highway Department employees are an important part of county government.
“We have to have a certain amount of people to get the job done,” King said.
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