published Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Frequent candidate Randy Fairbanks challenges veteran commissioner Fred Skillern

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    Randy Fairbanks
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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Key dates:

* April 7 -- Last day to register to vote

* April 29 -- Last day to request absentee ballot

* April 16-May 1 -- Early voting

* May 6 -- County primary election

Hamilton County's May 6 primaries are just over two months away, and two Soddy-Daisy men are hoping to win the hearts and minds of District 1's Republicans for the County Commission seat.

Veteran Commissioner Fred Skillern is defending his seat against challenger Randy Fairbanks, a certified public accountant who has made multiple runs for public office but has not yet succeeded.

Fairbanks said Tuesday his campaigning started six months ago when friends nudged him into running.

"We've been meeting a whole lot of people. I've met some business leaders and people in the community," Fairbanks said. "They're just wanting a commissioner who's more accessible to the people working in the community."

If elected, Fairbanks said his background as a certified public accountant would be a boon to county taxpayers. He also would focus on getting more in touch with residents, and said he would spend more of the district's $100,000-a-year discretionary fund on local schools.

Skillern historically has kept a large balance in the fund. As of Friday, the balance was $361,431.

"The younger parents I've talked to that have school-age kids are not pleased that [Skillern] holds those discretionary funds and doesn't spend those on things kids need," Fairbanks said.

But Skillern, who has represented District 1 for 33 years on either the school board or the commission, said he's about as accessible as they come.

"I live in my district, I work in my district, so I have regular contact with the people in my district," Skillern said.

As far as District 1's discretionary money goes, Skillern said he spends it very conservatively, because he is conservative -- but most of his spending goes to schools.

According to county records, Skillern has spent $64,298 since July 2013, and $52,487 of that went toward school programs.

Skillern said the public already has a good idea of what he intends to do if he's elected again: Keep an eye on the county's budget and represent the district.

"I plan on running like always. Like I said, I'm not going to change to get elected, and I won't change after I'm elected. I'm just going to be Fred," Skillern said. "I'm just going to run and hope the people elect me."

Fairbanks unsuccessfully sought the Hamilton County trustee seat in 1994, 1998 and 2002. He also made a bid for the General Assembly's District 31 post in 2006.

Whoever wins the Republican primary for the District 1 County Commission seat will more than likely walk on in the August election. No Democrats are running for the post.

District 1 includes much of the northwest part of the county north of Signal Mountain and west of the Tennessee River. Soddy-Daisy and Sale Creek are within District 1.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfree press.com or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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