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Members of the Cumberland County Election Commission met last Thursday for the certification of early voting and primary election voting machines in Cumberland County. From left, Lisa Phillips, election commission secretary; Linda Baehr-Caldwell, election commission chairwoman; and Nathaniel Simpson, machine technician; read numbers to verify and certify voting machines are accurate before they are sealed with tags. Early voting in Tennessee starts Feb. 12 and runs through Feb. 25. Election day is March 3. For more information about the election voting times or precincts on election day, call the Cumberland County Election Commission at 484-4919.

Eight candidates are seeking election as the next Cumberland County Assessor of Property. All candidates will be on the Republican Party primary ballot March 3 and the winner unopposed in the August general election. 

Early voting begins Feb. 12. 

The Tennessee Constitution establishes the elected office. The assessor is responsible for discovering, listing, classifying and valuing all property in the county. This includes land and buildings along with machinery and equipment used by a business. 

Property must be properly classified as residential, commercial, farm, personal, utility or exempt. Each classification has a different assessment level, such as 25% of the value of residential property and 40% of the value of commercial property. 

The assessor must also maintain maps and inventory of property within the county and complete a reappraisal every five years to insure property values reflect current market value. 

The property assessor does not set that tax rate. That responsibility falls to the Cumberland County Commission and the city of Crossville. The office also does not collect property taxes or send the tax bills. The county trustee and the city of Crossville are responsible for those tasks.

Property taxes are due by Feb. 29 for Cumberland County. The city's property tax deadline was Nov. 30. 

Six of the eight candidates introduced themselves during the Jan. 21 meeting of the Cumberland County Republican Party.

 

Lewis Taylor

A native of Cumberland County, Lewis grew up in the Woody community, the son of Glen and Wanda Taylor. He attended Vanderbilt University for one year before transferring to Tennessee Technological University where he studied business management. He then attended Liberty Baptist College. He later attended seminary and graduated with a master's degree in divinity.

He returned to Cumberland County and worked in real estate for Pioneer Realty. He joined Highland Federal Savings and Loan in 1991, where he has worked since.

"I have a proven record of experience, of integrity and of commitment to our community," Lewis said. 

He said he has been involved in every facet of real estate transactions, serving thousands of local families with their mortgage lending needs. 

"During these 30 years, I've established a stellar reputation. I've established relationships with my customers and with others in our local business community that are involved in the real estate industry," he said.

He is a charter member of the Crossville Lions Club and has served in every office of the club and assisted in fundraising. He is also active in Junior Achievement and Downtown Crossville Inc. He is also the director of Sunday school at Central Baptist Church where he coordinates approximately 75 teachers. 

 

Heath Scarbrough

Scarbrough is a lifelong resident of Cumberland County, and he currently makes his home in the Lake Tansi community.

He attended Walters State Community College and Northern Kentucky University.

He was a member of the baseball team at both schools. He is a volunteer with Crossville Youth Baseball and an assistant coach for the Stone Memorial Middle School baseball team.

He graduated from Tennessee Technological University where he earned a degree in business administration with a major in accounting.

"My entire career has revolved around the construction industry," he said. 

He worked as a general laborer with his father's construction company and later worked for A&M Vinyl Supply and then ProBuilt. There, he calculated building material needs based on blueprint design and estimated package prices. He met many of the homebuilders and buyers in the community.

He joined TAP Publishing, now The Cosby Harrison Company, in 2010 in a regional sales role. He currently serves as department manager for the company's Rock and Dirt division.

He believes his education and work experience offers a good foundation to step into the role of property assessor, he said he brings ideas and vision for the future. Those ideas include opportunities for employee training and seminars to advance their careers and to pursue more online features to make interacting with the office easier. 

"I believe we have a good basis the way the office is now," Scarbrough said. "But I want to move it into the future and find more and easier ways for the residents to use the office."

Scarbrough stressed he does not plan to make any staff changes to the office.  

 

Tom Howard

Howard said he is a "servant." 

He served six years in the U.S. Army and was recalled to serve in Operation Desert Storm. He has worked for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office as a deputy, shift supervisor, sergeant and lieutenant. He was named Cumberland County Deputy of the Year at the 2016 Reagan Day Dinner, hosted by the Republican Party.

He has had responsibility for staff training, budget development, grant writing and employee supervision.

"I've learned a lot about how to take care of you all as citizens," Howard said. "I will treat you fair. I will be honest. But most of all, I will care about you."

He said his family owns several commercial buildings they rent. 

"I have a small understanding of what those assessments mean to us as citizens," he said. 

He said he has no plans to change staff in the office. 

He added he wanted to help property owners when they have an issue, including the appeals process for assessments.

"When you leave that office, I want you to know that we did everything that we could to assist you with your concerns," Howard said. 

 

Lori Lowe Powell

Powell is a 1981 graduate of Cumberland County High School. She is the daughter of Alton and Meritta Lowe and is married to Steve Powell.

For the past 13 years, she has worked in the Cumberland County Assessor's Office. She has completed courses in appraisal and mapping, among other professional development classes and conferences. 

"I have the knowledge and experience on both sides of the assessor's door," she said. 

She said she is dedicated to serving the people of Cumberland County "with the same integrity, transparency and efficiency that they are accustomed to."

She understands county government operations, including the budget process. She also knows the laws and regulations the assessor's office operates under.

"I am the candidate who will not need the first year in office to learn the duties of the assessor," she said, adding Cumberland County is scheduled for reappraisal in 2022 — a process that will begin in early 2021. 

"I've been there through three [reappraisals]," she said.

She said she is a team player and can ensure a smooth office transition. 

Cumberland County has more than 65,000 parcels, the 11th highest number in the state, and the fifth lowest tax rate. The assessors office also maintains valuation for special provisions for parcels, such as mineral rights, and personal property tax information for about 2,500 entities. 

Powell said her job at the office had become a career she loves and that she is ready to take on the leadership and responsibility for the office.

"I will hit the ground running," she said.

 

Greg Barnwell

Barnwell grew up in the Tabor community of Cumberland County between the farms of his grandparents and great-grandparents. He said his family has been members of the Republican Party for 100 years.

He earned a degree in business management from Tennessee Technological University and began working in the Monticello Canning Company in Crosville in 1980. He and his wife married that year and they have two daughters and six grandchildren.

He worked for the company for 22 years in management roles when a large company purchased the business. 

He previously served on the Cumberland County Commission and the county's planning commission and budget committee. 

In 2002, he began his real estate career, including commercial, residential and land sales.

"I enjoy selling Cumberland County," he said, adding he tells clients about Cumberland County's growth and evolution from a small agricultural community to an industrial area and now into a retirement community.

"I enjoy explaining the demographics of Cumberland County," Barnwell said. "Basically, no children to educate and no crime. We battle it out every year for having the lowest property tax rate in the state."

He said the assessor's role is a liaison between the office and county and state government and the citizens of the community. 

"With my experience and my management skills, I feel confident I would be an asset to the office," he said. 

 

Linda Watson Miller

Miller said she is a fourth-generation Cumberland Countian. She is a property owner, taxpayer, licensed Realtor and cancer survivor.

She attended Cumberland County High School, Roane State Community College and South College.

Miller spent 27 years working for Fairfield Glade, including accounting and human resources roles. She worked for nine years as a Realtor with Fairfield Glade's real estate division before moving to Happy Hound Realty, now the Weichert Realtors, the Webb Agency.

"I take pride in providing service with the highest level of ethics and integrity," Miller said. 

She said a key component of the assessor's office is to establish the fair market value of all property in the county.

"As a Realtor, being familiar with all aspects of the local real estate market and estimating fair market value of property is my area of expertise," she said. 

She is a multi-million dollar producer in the real estate industry, with sales of new construction, resale homes, land and multi-unit properties.

"I am uniquely qualified to be your next assessor. I have first-hand knowledge and years of experience in estimating property values by physically walking and inspecting properties and researching county records to determine a value," she said. 

She said taxpayers should have a fair and transparent assessment. She said assessments should include consideration of depreciation and the individual characteristics of a home and neighborhood, avoiding grouped assessments. 

"I want the assessor's office to be a service for taxpayers," she said. "If you have questions about your taxes, I want a friendly and courteous staff that will pull the assessment and answer questions. Every answer can't be a yes, but clarification for all parties is important."

 

The following candidates did not attend the Republican Party meeting, but submitted their information to the Chronicle for inclusion.

 

Chad Garrett

Garrett has served in the United States Air Force and is a retired veteran who served in the Gulf War.

He holds an associates degree in systems maintenance technology from the Community College of the Air Force and a bachelor's degree in human resources. His education has included multiple leadership schools and logistics training. 

He has held supervisory experience over more than 50 personnel as logistics inspector and technical advisor to the Air Force Reserve Command logistics branch.

"I've worn many hats in my career," Garrett said. "The ability to read blueprints and grid maps and computer skills are ingrained in me.

"I would strive to serve the county in a fair and equitable way while working to deregulate some programs to achieve a more reasonable level that takes into account the unknowns in life that current policies fall short on."

Garrett is also a member of the Crossville Veterans of Foreign Wars, Cumberland County Elks and Crossville Masonic Lodge.

 

Don Strong

Strong is a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army and a registered respiratory therapist at Cumberland Medical Center. He and wife, Anna, have been married for more than 40 years and have three children and five grandchildren.

Strong has a lengthy real estate background beginning as an affiliate broker with Billy Ray Rogers Better Homes and Gardens Realty. He has sold properties for mariners Pointe, Lake Tansi Village, Cumberland Gardens and Fairfield Communities. He served as director of sales for Tybrisa Beach Resort in Tybee Island, GA. 

Strong has also served in marketing roles with resorts in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

His management experience includes general manager for American Homepatient in Cookeville, area manager for Vencor Hospital in Chattanooga, and director of respiratory care at WyndRidge Health and Rehabilitation Center's ventilator unit.

"It's pretty simple," Strong said. "Cumberland County is hiring someone for an administrative position as assessor of property.

"Cumberland County is growing and the assessor's office must be prepared to grow with it," he said. 

He pointed to his administrative, leadership and management skills and added he is experienced in dealing with government bureaucracy. He said he promises to listen to and address concerns and put the people first.

 

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.

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