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6 tips for people with disabilities who want to run for office

By Ed Carter

Running for office is an excellent way to effect change in your community and beyond. But as a person with a disability, you might feel apprehensive about managing an entire political campaign solo. Here are six tips to help you navigate your political run—and maybe even win.

1. Be Realistic About Your Chances

While you might be setting your sights high, it pays to be realistic about your odds of earning votes. Becoming a council member in your city is far different than earning election as a senator, for example. Some roles might even require years of political service before you become eligible for candidacy. Plus, you’ll need to raise funds to handle your campaign’s expenses. 

2. Enlist a Team to Help

Going it alone is a surefire way to lose your political campaign. You might need campaign experts like a campaign manager, media consultant and campaign treasurer. The expertise of others can fuel your decisions and help you navigate the journey. 

There are specialists you might consider as well, like influencer marketing services that can get you promoted on various social media platforms, and an email marketing pro who can help you engage with voters and promote your campaign with targeted emails. Luckily, finding many types of experts is easy when you head online to form connections.

3. Share Your Ideas

You’re probably thinking about campaigning because you feel strongly about one or more causes. Your motivation for running for office is an important factor in your campaign, so sharing your ideas is an essential step. However, Chron explains that you’ll need to have a brief elevator-pitch type slogan for people to really “get” it.

Think about your platform in general terms: what ideal or value is at stake? Take a look at past winning slogans from presidential campaigns for inspiration, but make sure your message is short, sweet, and your own.

4. Find Social Connections

While generating political support is great, you need personal connections, too. Consider speaking with others on social media or online support forums. You might meet people who can offer unique insight on more than just politics. These online friendships can also serve as an outlet whether you’re feeling frustrated or elated about your campaign.

5. Network, Network, Network

Friendships are important, but friends in high places are more powerful. It’s the truth, even if it feels a bit uncomfortable: your political connections can get you places. So, how can you make political connections if you’re new to the city council or local legislature? The answer is networking.

Sitting in on city council meetings or contacting current political office holders through email is a good start. You can also ask personal connections who they know and build up a bigger circle of allies who are politically active. You may even find a mentor in your search who can offer advice on campaigning and other aspects of election. Of course, taking inspiration from past candidates with disabilities can also be inspiring.

6. Use Social Media (Carefully)

Even if physical challenges keep you from going door-to-door to up support your campaign, you can still reach your constituents in meaningful ways. Social media can be an excellent channel for delivering messages to and hearing from your voters.

While overall political activity on social sites is low, both Facebook (six percent) and Twitter (eight percent) users engage about the same amount of political conversation, says Pew Research Center. That means plenty of viewership is available for your political content.

However, you should be cautious about sharing via social media. Like any other politician, you might be subject to a thorough background investigation by public opinion. So, cleaning up your social media profiles is essential before beginning your campaign.   

Becoming a candidate for political office is challenging no matter who you are. Although a disability can make things tougher, it doesn’t change your qualifications or passion for making a difference. If you remain dedicated and have a strong support network, the campaign trail might be just the place for you.

Ed Carter is a retired financial planner. He is the author of Able Future, a comprehensive financial guide for parents with children who have special needs. Learn more at ablefutures.org. Photo via Pexels

Proposals being sought for EMS site

HUNTSVILLE — The Scott County Board of County Commissioners is accepting proposals for real estate suitable for the relocation of the Scott County Ambulance Service.

The ambulance service is currently headquartered at Big South Fork Medical Center in Oneida. However, Scott County will soon build a new facility to replace the aging structure.

Commissioners have considered two pieces of property that were submitted during the last round of bidding: one site on Industrial Lane in Oneida, and a second site at the intersection of Paint Rock Road and Buffalo Road in Oneida. By a 9-2 vote on March 15, commissioners rejected both of those proposals, due to cost concerns.

The deadline for proposals to be submitted is noon on Thursday, April 1. The Scott County Finance Committee will meet in special session that same afternoon to unseal and consider any proposals that have been submitted.

For more information on the specifics of the proposal, contact the Scott County Department of Finance.

All Scott County adults now eligible for Covid-19 vaccine

HUNTSVILLE — All Scott Countians ages 16 and older are eligible to be vaccinated against novel coronavirus, beginning Wednesday, March 24, 2021.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday, March 23, that vaccination eligibility was being expanded to included all adults. One day earlier, Gov. Lee had said that vaccinations would be available to all adults by April 5 at the latest, but would be available within a few days in some parts of the state.

Scott County residents can schedule a vaccination at the Scott County Health Department by calling 866-442-5301. Or, you can visit www.vaccinefinder.org to find a list of providers in your zip code where appointments can be scheduled for one of the three vaccinations that have been approved by the FDA.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two injections; the Janssen vaccine by Johnson & Johnson requires one injection. However, the Moderna vaccine is currently the only one being offered locally. Big South Fork Medical Center has exhausted its supply of the Janssen vaccine.

Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals urges local residents to be vaccinated.

“Please consider getting the vaccine so we can put this mess behind us and, more importantly, save lives,” Mayor Tibbals said.

As of Tuesday, there were 54 active cases of coronavirus in Scott County. There have been a total of 2,958 Scott Countians infected with the virus, which has claimed 44 lives in Scott County.

Jamie Byrd appointed new EMS director

HUNTSVILLE — By a vote of 12-2 on Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Scott County Board of County Commissioners appointed Jamie Byrd as the new director of the Scott County Ambulance Service.

Mr. Byrd had served as EMS director in an interim capacity since the retirement of Jim Reed in 2020. He is a veteran paramedic with the ambulance service.

There were two candidates to declare an official interest in the vacancy. The second was Rick Russ, a former paramedic at the ambulance service and a former member of the Scott County Board of County Commissioners.

Supporting Mr. Byrd were Commissioners Donnie Bowlin, Patti Brown, Sheila Buttram, Benny Carson, Harold Chambers, Blue Day, David Jeffers, Jerried Jeffers, Sam Lyles, Kenny Morrow, Mike Slaven and Paul Strunk.

Supporting Mr. Russ were Commissioners Kenny Chadwell and Shonda Gray.

Tiffany Jeffers appointed property assessor

HUNTSVILLE — By a 12-2 vote on Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Scott County Board of County Commissioners appointed Tiffany Jeffers to the role of Scott County Assessor of Property. Mrs. Jeffers will serve in that role until the next general election, in August 2022.

Mrs. Jeffers replaces Anthony “Tony” Sexton, who passed away unexpectedly in December 2020. Mr. Sexton, a long-time employee of the Assessor’s Office, was elected to the role of Property Assessor in August 2016, and had just been re-elected in August 2020.

Scott County received two applications for the vacancy: In addition to Mrs. Jeffers, Heath Sexton — the daughter of Mr. Sexton — was a candidate.

Mrs. Jeffers is a 16-year veteran of the Assessor’s Office, and served as Deputy Assessor of Property under Mr. Sexton.

Voting in support of Mrs. Jeffers were Commissioners Donnie Bowlin, Benny Carson, Kenny Chadwell, Harold Chambers, Blue Day, Shonda Gray, David Jeffers, Jerried Jeffers, Sam Lyles, Kenny Morrow, Mike Slaven and Paul Strunk.

Voting in support of Ms. Sexton were Commissioners Patti Brown and Sheila Buttram.

Mayor’s Saturday coronavirus update

The HD has given me the advice to reopen the old courthouse. But as a continued precaution, those offices will remain closed until Wednesday. Please remember that even though the offices will soon be open, most of the services they provide can be done through the mail, phone calls or email.

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Mayor’s update on coronavirus status in Scott County

**Update II: Courthouse to reopen Wednesday, March 25**
**Update: Scott County has confirmed its first case of coronavirus**

From Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals:

Unless you have been on vacation in the woods without any digital contact with the world, I am sure you are all aware of the COVID-19 Pandemic aka the Coronavirus. Below is the situation as best to my knowledge.

Over the past three to four weeks I have been given numerous updates through various means. i.e. Conference calls, emails and community meetings (with school directors, the Scott County Emergency Management Association, the SC Health Department and the Sheriff) . Today I was on yet another conference call with Governor Bill Lee to get the latest advice and recommendations on policy changes and recommendations that the State of Tennessee is giving all Mayors, County Executives and Municipal Mayors.  Before I get into that discussion, I would like to go over what is happening here at the local level.

All schools are closed including Scott County and Oneida Schools until at least April 1, 2020 per mandate of the Governor.

As of this writing, there are NO cases of the virus in Scott County. Of course, this can quickly change as more test kits become available.

The Scott County Health Department in conjunction with the State HD is prepared if an outbreak were to occur. 

Scott County Government is open for business as usual, but with procedural changes. These changes are in place to protect not only the staff, but the citizens that use county services. These changes include policies that promote social distancing by establishing separation of clients and staff. What this means is that we are asking citizens to call the office where they need to services ahead of time to receive direction on how the service can be provided by using the USPS, available online services for that office or using email to make requests. We are also making structural changes to keep the desired separation.

The Scott County Jail is operating in a manner to prevent the virus from entering the jail system. No inmates are leaving the facility that would normally be assisting road crews, litter crews, recycle crews or other work programs.

The Justice Center Court System is now operating under a very restrictive policy on trials and regular cases to prevent close proximity situations.

All of the buildings in the realm of Scott County Government are continuously being cleaned and sterilized.

The UT Ag Extension office is open, but with limited staffing.

The Public Defender’s Office is closed, but is continuously checking messages of clients calling 833-857-2014. 

Other office numbers to call before coming to the County Offices are …

Assessor of Property 423-663-2420

Circuit Court Clerk 423-663-2440

Clerk and Master 423-663-2627

County Clerk 423-663-2588

County Mayor 423-663-2000

Register of Deeds 423-663-2417

Trustee 423-663-2598

Veterans Service Officer 423-663-4289

Back to the Governor’s conference call… The Governor is making changes to assist individuals that have been laid off or let go due to the virus. Unemployment checks will now be expedited to assist families that may be experiencing financial strain due to job disruption. He is also extending unemployment benefits for those employees who suddenly find themselves out of work as businesses temporarily cease operations during the pandemic.

He is also expanding funds available through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This will be available within a week through DHS. It allows cash funds up to $1,000 for a family of 5 or more that has had a job loss as a result of COVID-19.

Governor Lee is also doing what he feels is necessary to keep child care facilities open during the pandemic by increasing emergency response and recovery grants by $10 million.

Governor Lee has made orders to increase the number of test kits and ventilators for healthcare facilities in Tennessee.

The one thing the Governor stressed was that the government alone cannot ‘fix’ this pandemic. He asks that communities come together and do what they can to protect the most vulnerable of the population. He feels that doing all we can do for the elderly by helping them with grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions… Just whatever it takes to keep the elderly from becoming exposed to this virus.

He stressed that restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, churches, etc…should make provisions to prevent crowds of 10 or more from gathering in their facilities. He mentioned that these provisions are voluntary at this point. 

In closing, the Governor asked for everyone to pray for the citizens of the great State of Tennessee.

Keep on washing those hands Scott County. Keep personal space at six feet minimum. Avoid large crowds. Assist your neighbors. Together we can beat this thing.

Mayor Tibbals named to governor’s health task force

Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals (second from right) greets Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee during Gov. Lee’s July 2019 stop by the Scott County Justice Center in Huntsville. Also pictured are, from left to right: Huntsville Mayor J. Dennis Jeffers, Oneida Mayor Jack E. Lay, and State Sen. Ken Yager. (Photo: Sarah Dunlap)

HUNTSVILLE — Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals is among 15 people from across the state named to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s Health Care Modernization Task Force, it was announced last week.

Finance & Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter announced the appointments on October 8, saying that the task force will host public discussions with a goal of providing options for consideration to address the state’s major health care issues.

McWhorter will co-chair the task force with Bill Carpenter, former chairman and CEO of LifePoint Health, a Brentwood company that operates  several hospitals throughout the state.

Also on the task force are eight lawmakers, including Ferrell Haile, Bo Watson, Paul Bailey, Raumesh Akbari, Pat Marsh, Robin Smith, Ron Travis and John DeBerry Jr.

Lee said the idea is to improve health care in the Volunteer State.

“Working together, with patients, providers and payers, we can establish Tennessee as a world-class health care market for our people,” the governor said. 

Specifically, the task force will focus on improving the lives of Tennesseans who lack access to quality health care.

“Based on discussions with Tennesseans, the largest health care issue across the state is access — and that takes many forms, from a lack of health care providers to lack of transportation,” McWhorter said. “Our hope is that Tennesseans will come together around the task force to discuss potential solutions to immediate problems as well as long-term issues.”

In addition to McWhorter, Carpenter and the group of lawmakers on the task force, the remaining 15 members are something of a who’s who in Tennessee’s health care industry. Tibbals stands out because he is the only county or municipal elected official on the task force.

Other members include Dr. Mike Carrigan of Premier Medical Group, Dr. James Bailey of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center; Dr. Brian DeBusk of Lincoln Memorial University; Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College; Melanie Keller, CEO of Meritan Inc.; Mary Kiger, executive director of the Tennessee Charitable Care Network; Kathie Krause, chief nursing officer at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital; Shantelle Leatherwood, CEO of Christ Community Health Services; Alan Levine, president and CEO of Ballad Health; family physician Dr. Jim King; Kim Parker of Pathways Behavioral Health Services; Dr. Michael Ugwueke, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Dr. Andrea Willis, chief medical officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield Tennessee; and Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health.

While Tibbals is alone on the task force in his status as an elected county official without direct ties to the health care industry, he has insight on the struggles of rural hospitals after overseeing negotiations between Scott County and potential suitors to operate the community’s hospital after St. Mary’s exited its contract with the county during Tibbals’ first term as mayor. Ultimately, the county sold the hospital to Pioneer Health Services of Magee, Miss. That company later declared bankruptcy, and the local hospital was sold to Florida-based diagnostics firm Rennova Health, which has since purchased the hospitals in Jamestown and Jellico.

Tibbals has also been vocal about the health care concerns of rural Tennessee, including at the governor’s Rural Summit earlier this year. His sister, Tracey Stansberry, of Tennessee Plateau Oncology, penned a recent op-ed in The Tennessean newspaper, imploring the state to take action to help save rural hospitals.

As a county mayor in one of the state’s most rural counties, and also one where access to health care is an issue, Tibbals will likely be well positioned to provide feedback on the governor’s proposals for rural health care using first-hand experience that his colleagues on the task force aren’t able to provide.