There will be three candidates on the Montgomery County general election ballot Aug. 6 for highway supervisor.
Jeff H. Bryant Jr. is the Republican nominee. Bryant faces independent candidates Stayton D. Black Jr. and Bryan Knight.
All three candidates answered the same questions submitted to them by Main Street Clarksville.
Earlier this year, Mike Frost, who served 14 years as highway supervisor with the Clarksville Montgomery County Highway Department, said he would not run again due to personal reasons.
On June 21, Frost died at 67.
Why do you think voters should choose you over the other candidates for this position?
Black: I am confident that my 30 years of experience in construction and maintenance, 23 of which have been with the highway department, give me the required skills and knowledge to be the logical choice to supervise the Montgomery County Highway Department. I am the only candidate running who has documented, hands-on experience in road building, paving and vehicle and equipment maintenance. Please refer to my qualifying packet at sdblacktnhwys.com for more information. I am also the only candidate running who can honestly say that I have worked on every crew at MCHD, and I have operated every piece of equipment MCHD owns.
“My time as foreman over the paving and construction crew at MCHD from 2007-2015 included supervising many construction projects, road building, road or lane widening, culvert replacements, culvert extensions and all paving that was not contracted out. I have also worked many tireless hours to serve the public such as repairing sinkholes, snow removal, fallen trees, storm damage and tornado damage. My experience working on the roads taught me which direction the roads need to go in moving forward.
“For the past five years, I have been the shop foreman. As shop foreman, I supervise the maintenance and repairs of our fleet while doing the majority of the truck and equipment repairs in house, the prioritizing of repairs, supervise the ordering of parts and shop supplies and the maintaining of the shop budget. As shop foreman, I am familiar with the procurement and purchasing guidelines and procedures at the local and state level pertaining to the Montgomery County Highway Department.
The fact that my combined experience is actual hands-on experience gives me the knowledge to know what you can or cannot accomplish when on the jobsite, knowledge only learned from hands-on experience. I feel that my hands-on experience, coupled with my insight on internal operations of MCHD, qualifies me to lead Montgomery County Highway Department into the future. If elected, I will work for you, the taxpayers of Montgomery County, and I will allocate your tax dollars where they are needed in an effort to make them go further and make the roads safer for you and your families.”
Bryant: “As the only licensed professional engineer running, my experience and professional background make me uniquely qualified to modernize the highway department, save the taxpayers money and open new possibilities to advance roadway projects. For example, with my PE license, we can bring engineering review in-house, saving money on services that are currently contracted. I also have the qualifications necessary to work with TDOT for local management of state and federally funded projects, which the highway department has not yet been able to do. If I am elected, I will offer tangible benefits to Montgomery County taxpayers on the first day on the job.”
Knight: “As many of you know by now, I have been working for the Montgomery County Highway Department for more than 26 years. Within these last seven years, I have been operating as the foreman over my own crew. This means that I have been in control of a budget, schedules, projects and day-to-day operations of my crew. This, in essence, is a scaled-back version of what the role of highway supervisor entails. Through my years of working up from a simple laborer up to a foreman, I have had the chance to not only work in every kind of crew, but also to develop a great working relationship with those at the highway department. With the skills and relationships I have built through the years, I believe that I have made an environment that would allow those around me to give their honest opinions, as well as give me the ability to know from day one what needs improvement.”
Could you give one short-term priority and one long-term priority you plan to accomplish if elected?
Black: “The Montgomery County Highway Department currently has several vacant positions. If elected, it would be my immediate priority to seek qualified applicants to fill these positions as soon as possible. Without these positions filled, we are short-handed. There are times we have to pull men from one crew to fill-in on other crews. Being newly elected at the beginning of a new fiscal year, with a budget designed by the predecessor of this position, another short-term priority would be to scrutinize the budget in order for proper planning. With a full staff in place and a full understanding of what I have to work with, I can then plan accordingly.
“My long-term priority is for all roads in Montgomery County to have a minimum of a 20-foot pavement width with a 2-foot paved shoulder on all roads possible. Where a 2-foot paved shoulder is not possible, there will be a minimum of a 1-foot shoulder. This will lessen the chance of losing control of a vehicle if you veer outside of the white lines.”
Bryant: “Short term, we need to complete a systemic evaluation of the health of our roadways. That would be a short-term prerequisite to my long-term goal of implementing a pavement management system. A formal pavement management system will allow the county to save money by more closely monitoring the overall health of our roadways. In many cases, preventive maintenance and rejuvenating techniques, which are a fraction of the costs compared to repaving, are preferable to simply repaving on a scheduled interval.”
Knight: “My first priority in the short term is to purchase an asphalt milling machine for the highway department. Previously, roads were repaved by simply placing fresh asphalt over the pre-existing asphalt, leading to steep shoulders. By incorporating the milling machine into the repaving process, the first few inches of asphalt would be removed to allow for the new asphalt to adhere better. This improved adherence would also extend the longevity of the roads, both saving the taxpayers money and improving the quality of the roads. One of my long-term goals is to install reflectors between the center yellow lines of as many county roads as possible. As of now, the visibility on county roads at night or when raining is very low. This low visibility is a threat to the safety of motorists, especially when navigating the curvy back roads in the county.”
What is the biggest need facing the highway department in the next four years?
Black: “Funding. There is exponential growth in Montgomery County, but lack of exponential growth in the budget. Montgomery County needs a highway supervisor with hands-on experience and knowledge in road construction and road maintenance, who possess the leadership ability to get more work done with less money.”
Bryant: “The county highway department will face the increased challenge of doing more to address the infrastructure needs of our growing community with less public funding. I am uniquely qualified to address this challenge from both the income and expense ends. With my qualifications and relationships with the TDOT local programs office, we have a unique opportunity to advance creative funding opportunities. On the expense side, we can save money through implementing a pavement management system and utilizing technology that will modernize the department.”
Knight: “The biggest problem that the highway department faces right now and will continue to face unless dealt with is the deterioration of our county bridges. Montgomery County prides itself on the quality of our roads, and I would like for us to feel the same about our bridges. To combat this issue, I would like to hold several discussions with the bridge crew as to the exact condition of specific bridges and how the department could best help them with the issues that they are facing. We have 139 different bridges that the Montgomery County Highway is over, and I’d like to keep every one of them in great shape.”
How would you, as a highway supervisor, plan to improve keeping up with growth as opposed to catching up to it? Is it possible?
Black: “If elected, I will work closely with the planning commission and county commissioners to anticipate growth and work to address these issues before they become a problem. Establishing better communications with local, county and city departments and the local Department of Transportation is necessary if we are going to keep up with this exponential growth. A full traffic study of major county roadways would also be completed. These studies may show other areas where road widening or relocation is needed.
“I would also work with state and federal authorities on funding for projects for which funding may be available. An example of this would be working with the state on getting more of our roads classified as minor collector roadways, thereby opening these roads up to state aid money. Working with our representatives in state government to ensure that we get our fair share of IMPROVE Act money will also be helpful in providing a funding stream outside of just local taxes.
“It is possible to keep up with growth, but first we will need to catch up with the growth in certain areas. There are areas of Montgomery County roads that are near the city limits or lead into the city limits not designed for the volume of traffic currently traveling the roads such as Excel Road, Dotsonville Road, Dunlop Lane, etc.
“Thank you for this opportunity to answer these important questions. I ask for your vote and support Aug. 6. Keep roads on track, vote Black.”
Bryant: “Having a formal strategy for improvements and working closely with local governments, planning commission and the school system will be critical to proactively, rather than reactively, address growth. It is entirely possible to anticipate the effects residential and development growth will have on not just our roadways, but also drainage, bridges and other infrastructure. As a licensed professional engineer and my experience in implementing the city’s 2020 growth plan, I have the background and experience to take the lead in this effort.”
Knight: “By taking over as highway supervisor, you will have to automatically start out by playing catch up. There are several roads in Montgomery County that need widening, several intersections that need traffic signals and several dangerous intersections that need flashing red lights on top of the stop signs. All of these things would be needed just to catch up to the growth we are currently experiencing. To keep up with the future growth and work as a preventative, I would work closely with the Montgomery County planning commission, the county commissioners and the county mayor to make sure the highway department is prepared to keep up with the rapid growth in the county instead of continuing to just play catch up.”