FORUM: Tax rates, economic development among topics for judge-executive candidates

Published 8:58 am Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The audience heard from Democratic and Republican candidates for Clark County Judge-Executive Tuesday.

Republican candidates Chris Pace and Sam Williams discussed heavily the primary role of the judge-executive.

Pace said he believes the judge-executive should be a leader, “not just another vote on the court.”

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“(The judge-executive) needs to go out and recruit new business, work with the CEOs of Lockheed Martin and Ford Mazda and others to bring real jobs back to our county.”

He noted the loss of numerous businesses in recent years, starting with the closure of Rockwell International.

“Clark County needs leadership reaching out to find real jobs,” he said. “We deserve better.”

Williams said the most important task of the judge-executive is to create a consensus in the community.

“We need a consensus of the folks that live in the county, the Democrats, Republicans, independents and be able to get a consensus to go forward,” he said.

He said his background as an engineer, land surveyor and developer would benefit the office.

“I understand the red tape that is currently involved in doing improvements in the county and gaining good jobs and bringing in business,” he said.

In regards to what they hope to accomplish in office, Pace said his focus would be on improving the economy, while Williams aspires to tackle the drug epidemic.

“A lot of leaders have kept their head in the sand when it comes to economic problems,” Pace said.

He noted that Clark Countians can expect to make about $15,000 less a year than Scott County residents.

“We have got to do better,” he said. “We need real jobs; $10 an hour jobs are not gonna get it done.”

Williams said he hopes to tackle the drug problem because of his family’s experiences with drug addiction. He said his children all received good educations and had good experiences growing up in Clark County, but his son struggled with addiction.

“He was a victim of the opioid crisis,” he said. “I want to make an impact on the folks in Clark County and all those who are trying to attack this problem.”

Democratic candidates Liz Elswick and current Judge-Executive Henry Branham fielded similar questions about the job of the judge-executive and economic development, but also tax rates. Each touted their long careers in public service as qualifiers for the position.

Branham has served nearly 12 years as judge-executive, and was county treasurer prior to his election.

Elswick served as deputy judge-executive first for former Judge-Executive Jimmy Allen and then for each judge up to and including Branham, she said. She is currently the chief deputy county clerk.

Branham said he has worked hard to implement operational processes in the office that have allowed the current tax rate in the county to remain unchanged for five years.

“In the current budget I presented to the court Wednesday, I have recommended not to increase the rates again in 2018,” he said. “I see no need to do that. We have had cash operational problems in the past, but we do not have them now.”

Elswick said she is also not an advocate for tax increases, but noted her opponent recommended an increase in 2014.

“This recommendation was voted down and I stand with them (the fiscal court),” she said.

In regards to job growth, Elswick said that is not the role of the judge-executive.

“It was stated in a previous forum that is actually out of the realm of the county judge’s office,” she said. “I don’t think any candidate or judge could really take credit for bringing businesses to Clark County.”

However, Branham argued cooperation among many groups, including his office, the Chamber of Commerce and the industrial development authority, among others, is crucial to economic growth.

“All these folks work together to recruit business and industry in the community,” he said. “It’s a community partnership.”

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0049.

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