Meet the Candidates: Town of Sawmills

Jul. 24, 2013 @ 05:16 PM

In Sawmills, two candidates are running for the mayor’s seat: Bob Gibbs, who has held the office since 2010, and Bobby Austin, who was mayor for one term before Gibbs.

Six candidates are running for two seats on the town council. Two of them are incumbents, and two are former members of the council.

Bobby Austin

Austin, 81, served one term as mayor of Sawmills. He said he stepped down because his wife was ill; she has since recovered.

Austin said his biggest concern would be expanding the town’s sewer service. He’d also like to see more jobs and to see the town’s facilities, including its parks, updated and improved.

“Some of the people came around and asked me (to run for mayor), and I just figured, well, I’d do it again,” Austin said. “I enjoyed it while I was there and thought I’d done a pretty good job of it, so I thought I’d do it again.”

Austin is retired from the U.S. Army, where he served for 22 years. Before his term as mayor of Sawmills, he also served one term on the town council.

Bob Gibbs

Gibbs, 58, has served as the mayor of Sawmills since 2010 and served on the town council before that.  

Gibbs said the economy and water and sewer are key issues for the town, and he wants to continue seeking grants to improve the town’s water and sewer system and to draw new businesses to Sawmills. He said he wants to continue the town’s progress while keeping the tax rate down.  

“I believe in our town,” Gibbs said. “I believe that we have a great potential in our town to grow and prosper. We’re the second-largest municipality in the region, as far as population size and size of land mass. We have a lot of room to grow, and our people come first.”

Gibbs is a retired paramedic and a member of Sawmills Fire and Rescue, the county’s sales tax reinvestment committee, the Caldwell Railroad Commission, the Optimist Club and Mount Zion Baptist Church, where he sings in the choir.

Gerelene Blevins

Blevins, 62, served three terms on the Sawmills Town Council but did not serve in the most recent term.

She said she misses helping the people of Sawmills. She would like to see the town expand sewer services and seek and acquire more grant funding.

“I miss it, I really do,” Blevins said. “I miss the people, and I miss helping the people.”

Blevins is a housewife and a volunteer for Sawmills Fire and Rescue.  She is a member of Dry Ponds Baptist Church.

Edward Lineback

Lineback, 62, has not previously served in a local elected office.

Lineback said he believes that as the town has sought progress, it has strayed away from its roots. He said he believes town leaders are trying to shape the town after Hudson and Granite Falls and that as a result, taxes and expenses are climbing too high. He also said that if elected, he would never vote for a tax increase of any kind.

“I was challenged two years ago that if we didn’t like the way things were done in Sawmills, we could run for office if we thought we could do better,” Lineback said. “I personally think that I can do a better job. I’ve got more common sense than what I see going on over there.”

Lineback works as a truck driver.

Joe Norman

Norman, 66, previously served on the Sawmills Town Council but did not serve in the most recent term.

Norman said he is most concerned with keeping the town’s budget in balance and that there are many issues in the town he’d like to see “started and finished.” He added that “when the money is right,” he supports new bathrooms in Veterans Park, an issue that has come up in recent town council meetings.

“I’ll try, if I’m elected, to make a common-sense approach to the issues that come up and try to vote what I feel is best for the Town of Sawmills – not any individual per se, just what’s best for everybody in the town,” Norman said.

Norman works in sales and is a member of the Optimist Club.

Donnie Potter

Potter, 49, has served on the Sawmills Town Council since 2009.

He said he initially ran for town council because he felt there was a disconnect between the citizens of Sawmills and the town administration. He said that has changed since he was elected and that, as a result, citizens are more open and involved with town hall.

He said the most important issues facing the town are the economy and the need to manage growth conservatively, to find creative and efficient ways to improve the town’s infrastructure without placing a burden on the taxpayer, and to continue to provide opportunities for the youth of the community through parks and recreation.

“I am a common-sense leader who has compassion for our town and its citizens,” Potter said. “I will always do my best to put people over politics and will always try to make the best decision possible for our town.”

Potter is an account executive for Ally Bank in the auto division and a charter member and board member for the Sawmills Community Optimist Club.

Keith Warren

Warren, 53, has not previously served in a local elected office.

He said he has deep roots in the Sawmills community and wants to be more involved in making the town a better place. He said he is impressed with many of the town's functions, particularly Sawmills Fire & Rescue. He also said he would support some type of new restrooms at Veterans Park as long as those were economically reasonable.

"I love the people down there (in Sawmills), and I'm willing to help do anything I can to make Sawmills a better place," Warren said.

Warren works as a truck driver and is a member of Sunrise Baptist Church.

Joe Wesson

Wesson has served on the town council since 2009. He also served a prior term on the council.

He said he would like to expand the town’s sewer service without raising the tax rate and to continue to work toward taking ownership of private roads that citizens have asked the town to take over. He said he feels strongly that the town council should approve new bathrooms for Veterans Park.

“I initially got into this because I was interested in some of the things that were going on in the town, and I wanted to see things grow and develop and just work for the good of the townspeople,” Wesson said. “I just feel our town’s moving forward, and I’d like to keep it going in that direction.”

Wesson is retired from NACCO Material Handling. He is a Vietnam veteran and a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church, and previously served on the Sawmills planning commission and as a Little League baseball coach.