Watson will not seek re-election
by DAVID DAVIS Managing Editor
Oct 06, 2013 | 1987 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Eric Watson
Eric Watson
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State Rep. Eric Watson revealed one of the worst kept secrets in Bradley County politics in years Friday when he announced that he is not seeking re-election to the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Watson has been virtually unopposed in the 22nd District that covers Bradley, Meigs and Polk counties since entering state politics eight years ago.

His string of election victories includes a Republican Primary in a November 2005 special election in which he defeated Dan Howell, Elizabeth Kalabus, Alexander Mosely and Fred Wilcoxon. He then won a Jan. 6, 2006 special election over Democrat Sally Love. The Polk County Commission appointed Love Sept. 15, 2005, to fill a midterm vacancy left by the resignation of former state Rep. Chris Newton.

Watson was unopposed in the August 2006 Republican Primary. He beat Democrat Casey Stokes by a near 3-to-1 margin in November 2006 to win his first full term in office. He was unopposed in the 2008 and 2010 elections. In the 2012 Republican Primary, he handily defeated David Kimbro then dispatched Democrat Jonathan Gladden of Ocoee in the Nov. 6 General Election.

It is with that solid foundation of support in Bradley, Meigs and Polk counties that Watson announced to up to 550 people packed into Mountain View Inn that he would not seek re-election to state office ,but would instead seek the office of Bradley County Sheriff.

The audience included leaders from religion, business, law enforcement and politics, including state Sen. Todd Gardenhire and Rep. Mike Carter, Ooltewah. The Rev. Tim Fowler read a statement of endorsement from state Sen. Mike Bell, Riceville.

“I understand nothing lasts forever and everything has its season,” he said. “I feel like my season as a State Representative has neared its completion. I truly believe that my public service, my involvement with the law enforcement community and my leadership role in different law enforcement capacities have prepared me for this next step in my life.

“This is not a decision I made lightly. I’m proud of my accomplishments in Nashville, but I will not seek another term. More and more, I’ve realized we have problems closer to home — problems that cannot be properly addressed from Nashville.”

Watson said he wants to return Bradley County to the time when neighborhoods were safe and doors were left unlocked.

“Back to a time when law enforcement officers held the respect and trust of the citizens, back to a time where you knew the officer in your community by name and they knew you by name and children dreamed of one day becoming police officers and deputies,” he said.

“That’s why, instead of seeking another term in the Tennessee Legislature, I want to announce my intention to seek the office of Bradley County sheriff.”

Watson touted his city, county and state level law enforcement experience as a knowledge base of law enforcement operations on all levels.

“As chairmen of the Judiciary committee in the House of Representatives, I had the honor to work with Gov. Bill Haslem on the recent updated state civil service plan,” he said. “I also lead and created a formula that gave our state law enforcement officers up to a 10 percent salary increase without a tax increase to our citizens because I recognize the value of compensating those who protect our citizens each day.

“While serving in the House, I have overseen state budgets and managed oversight for several state agencies’ budgets. As sheriff, I will fund priorities while providing services that meet our budgetary restrictions.

“When elected sheriff, I will initiate a proven formula that will help to increase employees’ salaries and encourage the adoption of the 76 percent retirement Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System payout retirement package instead of the standard 48 percent.”

Some of Watson’s platform are:

- Offer training and educational opportunities for deputies seeking career advancement by bringing Cleveland State Community College to the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office with classes held at the Justice Center, and offer tuition assistance;

- Work with the County Commission toward a pay classification for all county employees;

- As sheriff, he said he would be visible and accessible to the community and give to the overall well-being of communities by working with all levels of government, churches, schools and community leaders to create beneficial programs for young people.

“Programs that will help mold, motivate and encourage them to become good leaders. We must not continue to sit idly by, while our young people are left to fend for themselves. Many have come up with their own ideas of how to motivate, and encourage themselves,” he said. “At times this has turned out to be gangs, vandalism, harassment of others or some other form of criminal activity.

“If some refuse to choose the adverse ways, and turn out to be good constructive citizens, or community leaders, then we rejoice. However, if they choose the latter, we are left to come up with ways to deal with them, such as Juvenile Justice, adult prisons, mental institutions or welfare programs.

“We must show our young people that we care about them. That we plan to take a more active role in the future of their lives so to help them accomplish the goals they may have set for themselves.”

Programs such as:

- The D.A.R.E. program for school children, which he said is a well-respected anti-drug program active in 75 percent of schools in the United States and 43 other countries;

- The Start Smart Program is an opportunity for new drivers and their parents to clearly understand their responsibilities when a teen starts to drive. Taught by trained law enforcement personnel, it creates awareness of possible consequences, both financial and physical, of distracted or impaired driving, and provides information about collision prevention;

- The Explorer Program would provide young people the opportunity to explore interests in law enforcement through on the job exposure to the duties of the sheriff’s office.

“Seniors deserve our respect and protection too, because they are our link to the past,” he said. “We should do all we can to assist our senior citizens. I will create a Senior Assist Volunteer Patrol. This will be a program designed to draw upon the experience of volunteers from our community.”

Duties would range from assisting with administrative work, complete daily checks on disabled or home-bound senior citizens, home vacation checks, creation of an Alzheimer’s Directory in which a volunteer would go to a residence and take photographs that will assist law enforcement personnel to identify and return someone to their home if they wander away and become lost.

- The unit would assist in child fingerprint and identification card, escorts and assist patrol officers in traffic accidents.

“Crime always finds a victim and I want to offer support to crime victims and their families,” he said. “Victims often feel neglected by the criminal justice system, whether from initial police response, the investigative procedures and our court system. As Sheriff, I will form a special Victim Services Unit dedicated to helping victims and their loved ones during a crisis or crime.

“One of the main responsibilities of the Victim Service Unit will be to assist any crime victim in Bradley County. The advocates will work directly with the victim from the time a complaint is filed with law enforcement through the judicial process. Advocates can help victims better understand our system and aid them in their interactions with the different agencies.”

Watson said he would also restore the Citizens’ Academy to provide the opportunity for people to learn about the relationship between law enforcement, the courts and the rights of private citizens.

“Knowledge is power and I want every private citizen in this county to feel empowered in their homes, their jobs and their persons,” he said. “I will continue holding town hall meetings at different locations, allowing people to face me personally with questions, suggestions and concerns.”

Watson also revealed some of his ideas for reducing the crime rate in Bradley County, where he said crime has increased since 2010.

“You may ask why have I made the decision to run for sheriff and the answer is simple,” he said. “I have a love for law enforcement and for this county. I am convinced that my experience, training and accomplishments have prepared me to lead this office to better serve you by using its resources to the fullest and by allowing its professional men and women to reach their potential.”