Retirements Changing Political Landscape; Candidates Lining Up for August General Election

Huntsville, TN (2018-01-09) While it’s still eight months away, the face of politics in Scott County will change in August, as at least two countywide officeholders have decided to call it a career.

Scott County Clerk Patricia A. (Pat) Phillips and County Road Superintendent Donald R. (Dick) Sexton have informally announced their intentions to not seek reelection in August.

Phillips has been a fixture in the office of County Clerk for 37 years, having went to work for longtime County Clerk Vesta J. Phillips in 1981.  She was first elected to the office in 1998 following Phillips’ retirement.  She ultimately served five consecutive terms.  During her tenure, Phillips saw significant changes in the way the county did business.  “A lot of things have changed; mostly for the better,” Phillips said.  Having contemplated retirement, Phillips has spent the last several years preparing the office for a smoother transition.  While Phillips has always had a heart for the county, her decision to retire came down to wanting to spend more time with those closest to her.  “I look forward to spending time with family, especially my grandbaby,” Phillips remarked. “I just wanted to have the opportunity to enjoy life,” she added.

While Phillips will not be on the ballot in August, a family member has stepped forward to run for the office.  Felicia Hamby Bilbrey, Phillips’ niece, has announced her candidacy and turned in paperwork to the Scott County Election Commission office.  As with any office being vacated, the likelihood of having several candidates vie for the job is great.  A second candidate, Sandi Carson Chambers, has already picked up paperwork too.

Sexton was first elected to the office of Road Superintendent in 2002.  “’I’ve enjoyed it,” Sexton remarked.  Known for his colorful personality, Sexton was the first-ever person to be elected to the office four consecutive terms—longevity he attributed to his employees.  “I’ve had a lot of good people behind me,” Sexton said.  As he looked back over his career, Sexton’s only regret is not being able to do everything the people wanted.  “When you don’t have the money to do with, it makes the job difficult,” Sexton commented.  The recent passage of the Improve Act has increased department revenues; however, as implemented, the gasoline tax will increase over time; meaning Sexton’s successor will benefit from the increase.  Like Phillips, Sexton expressed a desire to spend more time with family for his decision.  “I love my job,” Sexton said.  Prior to his stint as Road Superintendent, Sexton had been both an Alderman and Mayor of the Town of Winfield.

Kelvin King, a long-time employee of the department that was tasked with much of the responsibility of the day-to-day operations will try to follow in Sexton’s footsteps.  King is not new to politics, as he currently serves as the Vice-Mayor of the Town of Winfield.

The Office of Sheriff may be the most hotly contested race of the year.  Scott County Sheriff Ronnie Phillips has already picked up and returned his paperwork to run for re-election; however, former Sheriff Anthony Lay may challenge for the seat in August.  Lay, like Phillips, was one of the first potential candidates to pick up a qualifying petition on Friday—the first day candidates could begin the process.

Phillips has been Sheriff since January 2014, when he was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the untimely death of Sheriff Mike Cross.  Phillips successfully ran for the office in August 2014, easily defeating Lay’s former Chief Deputy and Acting Sheriff, Bobby Ellis.  Ellis took over the Sheriff’s Department following the resignation of then Sheriff Lay in April 2010, when Lay quit to take a job with the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

Lay was elected to the office in 2006, taking the job from former Sheriff Jim Carson.  Prior to being elected Sheriff, Lay was a deputy for the sheriff’s office, a drug agent, and trooper for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Phillips worked at the Oneida Police Department before being the Chief Deputy at the Sheriff’s Office under Cross.

Other notables in the early days of qualifying include:

County Mayor Dale Perdue, Trustee Jimmy D. Byrd, and Circuit Court Clerk Donnie Phillips have already picked up and returned paperwork to seek reelection.

Current County Maintenance Supervisor Tim (Kemo) Garrett has picked up papers to run for Register of Deeds.  At this point, current officeholder Porter B. (Benjie) Rector, Jr. has not picked up a qualifying petition.

Current County Commissioners Sam Lyles (2nd District), Sheila Hall Buttram (3rd District), and Rick L. Burke (7th District) have picked up paperwork to run for reelection.  Scott Puckett, manager of an Oneida retail store, has picked up a qualifying petition to run for Commissioner in the sixth district.  Former Commissioner David Jeffers has picked up a qualifying petition for the first district.

First District County School Board Member Tommy Silcox has picked up and returned his petition to run for reelection, while Kimberly Ross Kidd has picked up a qualifying petition to run for reelection in the fourth district.  Voters will also select county school board members in the fifth and seventh districts in August.