The Blount County Commission on Thursday night chose Peggy Lambert to fill the seat vacated by Commissioner Bob Ramsey who was elected to the State House of Representatives in November.
The commissioners voted 14-5-1 to choose Lambert over the only other nominee, Dale Huddleston. Huddleston, a Republican, was nominated by Commissioner Bob Proffitt, who, like former commission Bob Ramsey, represents the fifth district. Lambert was nominated by Commissioner Ron French. While it had been a tradition for commissioners to choose the person nominated by the district’s co-commissioner to fill a vacant seat, the vote Thursday night went to Lambert.
Before the vote, Proffitt, a Democrat, said Huddleston has been in the county several years, had training in environmental science and has been active in the community. “He’s been much more than a bystander and has been actively participating in civic affairs and environmental programs,” Proffitt said. “He has also impressed me and others as being a team person.”
Proffitt also alluded to the commission’s tradition of giving the nod to the nominee of the district’s co-commissioner.
“I feel the tradition of the co-commissioner at least having some lead in establishing this nominee is a very good tradition,” Proffitt said. “I really feel he is the right man at the right time.”
In nominating Lambert, French alluded to when he first considered running for commission in the early 1990s and how someone advised him to speak with Lambert because she was very involved in politics and might be able to help him.
“In those discussions, the wisdom and knowledge she imparted to me helped me win that election,” French said. “I think she will use that wisdom and knowledge and be a great asset to the fifth district in Blount County as a commissioner. Therefore I’d like to place in nomination for the seat in District 5 Ms. Peggy Lambert.”
Huddleston addressed the commission and said he had been in Blount County 12 years, had worked with Alcoa, Inc., for more than 30 years and had spent much of that time in the environmental field. “I think I have talent in leadership I’ve learned in business and environmental safety and mainly working with people,” he said.
Huddleston said he also volunteered with the Blount County Chapter of the American Red Cross and served with the agency during the Hurricane Katrina response and during the sale of the Red Cross property downtown.
Huddleston said he was open to listening to people with opinions on either side of an issue. “What can I offer as a commissioner is basically three things: I think I’m pretty open. I listen to the people and would like to have counsel from other people in the community, and I investigate the facts,” he said. “We need to make sure we truly understand the impact of decisions. You make extremely difficult decisions that impact the county.”
Lambert is a registered nurse who was born and raised in Blount County. She has been active in the Republican political community for 30 years and is sister to former commissioner Bob Kidd. Lambert is a Republican National Committee Woman for Tennessee.
“Probably the most important thing you need to know is I’m a fiscal conservative,” Lambert said. “We should all live within our means. That expectation is true for government. We’re in tough economic times. Significant numbers of citizens have lost their jobs and soon many more will lose theirs. I’ll be ever mindful of these facts if given the honor of serving on this body. We cannot raise taxes. We must continue to provide the services our citizens need and the most important service is education. We must keep our citizens safe, and our infrastructure is important. We cannot function without these services.”
Voting for Huddleston were commissioners David Ballard, Wendy Pitts Reeves, Proffitt, David Graham and Monika Murrell. Voting for Lambert were commissioners Steve Samples, Kenneth Melton, Gerald Kirby, Tonya Burchfield, Holden Lail, Mike Lewis, Brad Harrison, Scott Helton, Mike Walker, Steve Hargis, John Keeble, Mark Hasty, Gary Farmer and Ron French. Commissioner Joe McCulley passed on voting for either nominee.
After the vote, Lambert said her priority would be the budget and cutting fat. “We’re in serious economic times, and we’ve got to tighten our belts and make our government run on the least amount of money we can. We can’t raise taxes. If we could, we should cut taxes to give more money back to the taxpayer.”
Huddleston said after the vote he thought it was an interesting experience. “I got a lot of positive comments from friends and people in the community and that was really warm to hear,” he said.
Huddleston said he respected the commissioners. “They needed to pick the person they felt most comfortable working with, and I’m fine with their decision,” he said.
When asked if he would consider running for the commission seat in the future, Huddleston said, “I don’t think so, but we’ll see.”
Proffitt said it was not surprising in a county with such a large Republican presence as Blount County that the commissioners would pick someone like Lambert who has been as active as she has. “She’s not new on the scene by any means,” he said. “She’s been active on a local, state and national level. I think she’ll be helpful on commission, but I still feel positive about my nominee.”