Judge-exec hopefuls tackle budgets, job roles, economic development

Published 12:41 pm Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Candidates for Clark County judge-executive discussed economic development, job responsibilities and budgets at the candidates forum Tuesday.

Henry Branham, the Democratic incumbent, is running for his fourth term as judge-executive against Republican challenger Chris Pace.

Branham and Pace had different opinions when discussing the primary responsibility of the judge-executive.

Pace likened the office of judge-executive to that of a CEO.

“It’s someone who should be held responsible if the county is not getting done the things that need to,” Pace said.

Pace said, if elected, he would be more focused on the big picture.

Branham, on the other hand, said the primary responsibilities should be the day-to-day operations. He said by focusing on operations, the county can choose not to increase property taxes or even decide to decrease taxes.

“That will not happen if you do not concentrate on operations,” Branham said.

The candidates also discussed the impact on the county’s budget and their ideas on how to keep it in the black.

Branham said the highest revenue stream is from businesses and the county has to continue to recruit and expand businesses. He said the county needs to become more business-friendly.

“(The Winchester-Clark County Industrial Development Authority) does a great job of recruiting and expanding businesses,” Branham said. “That’s provided more revenue to the county as well as the city.”

Pace said in the past four years, as far as revenue is concerned, there has been a lot of talk about paying the employees. Pace said there needs to be a higher tax base in Clark County, and he does not support any tax increases.

Pace also said he supports anything to encourage businesses. He said he supports expanding agriculture, especially industrial hemp, as well as more industries. Pace said he would like to work on zoning laws and “restrictive resolutions” that deter businesses from coming to Clark County.

“We are preventing too much business from coming into town with all of the restrictive resolutions,” Pace said. “We need to be more business friendly.”

Branham said he would support whatever the industrial authority recommends expanding.

As for other economic development, Branham said the county would have to continue working with its community partners such as the industrial authority, chamber of commerce, tourism commission and more.

Pace said the key to economic development is in lowering taxes, creating new jobs and welcoming new businesses. He said if elected, he would aggressively pursue “big suppliers,” to compete with other counties. Pace said counties like Scott County, with its massive Toyota operation, have grown more rapidly than Clark County, which has barely grown since the last census, he said.

“We’re going to start losing population within five years,” Pace said. “Do we really want our hometown to become a ghost town?”

About Whitney Leggett

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

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