Candidate for District 7 of the County Commission Sabrena Turner spoke to the Civitan Club Friday afternoon, saying, "It's imperative that we get leadership that will not only be a voice for the people but will get on the front lines for the people."
Mrs. Turner said in her community, she has done just that and would be proud to do it again.
She told the audience that when the issue of annexation first came to her area, she had not planned on getting involved. However, she said when clients continued to come into her office detailing all kinds of problems it caused, she decided to do research.
She said, "I got involved because I really cared about the citizens in my district." After a community wide meeting, she and seven other people started the organization Hamilton County Residents Against Annexation.
Through fundraising events and going door-to-door, educating people about how they could help work against the annexation of their communities, HCRAA raised approximately $200,000. They used this money to hire a Knoxville attorney with experience fighting annexation and filed 12 lawsuits against the city.
She said, "I am an avid supporter of property rights. When someone buys a home that's usually their greatest investment."
She told the club that if elected, education would be one of her primary areas of concern, along with public safety, economic development in the county, and infrastructure.
She said, "I will advocate for a strong working relationship between the School Board and the County Commission." She said one of her frustrations now was finding out that the Board and the Commission do not have a stronger relationship than they do.
Mrs. Turner said, "The two bodies owe it to the taxpayer to get in there and solve these problems." One of those problems the county currently faces is updating schools. Many schools in various districts are already over capacity and some of the older buildings have unsafe health conditions such as mold.
From her own district, she said there was a great need for a middle school. She said she had spoken individually with the principal of each school there, and another common need was technology upgrades.
However, Mrs. Turner said she did not support accomplishing these goals with a tax increase, saying, "I am a fiscal conservative. I'm not going to be in favor of a tax increase when I think there are others ways to address this issue."
She continued, "Hamilton county is very fortunate because they have an AAA bond rating." She said every year, as the county pays off more debt, it can issue more bonds. Because of high bond rating, the county can also borrow at a lower interest rate. She also suggested that because the fund balance is healthy, a small percentage of it could be used for the education budget without harming the bond rating.
She pointed out that even for residents who do not have children, schools have a large effect on property value.
In terms of public safety, she said, "I'm going to be very supportive of strong neighborhood watch programs."
As a small business owner, she also said, "Not only do I want us to be very competitive and attract new businesses to Hamilton County, but I want to take care of the businesses we already have here."
She said, "Growth has already surpassed us keeping up with infrastructure. To keep growing, to bring other businesses in, we have to keep up with our infrastructure."
Answering a question from the audience, Mrs. Turner told the club what she would promise to do as a commissioner. She said, "Before making a decision I want to do my research thoroughly. I don't want to go in there without all the facts. I want to know what I'm voting on, what I'm making a decision on."
During the meeting, the Civitan Club also presented a donation of $2,000 to the Orange Grove Center, an organization that works to improve the lives of those with developmental disabilities.