Brandon Cook is running for the Blount County Commission.
The 29-year-old kicked off his campaign for a District 1 seat on Oct. 3 during a reception at the Blount County Public Library.
Cook was chair of the Blount County Democratic Party in 2006 and helped get three members of his party elected to the county commission. Cook told those gathered he had one reason for running.
“Folks, my answer is simple - I care about Blount County, and I care about Tennessee. That’s the common sense answer.”
Cook said he will talk about the economy and education during the campaign. “The No. 1 thing we can do is invest, and the No. 1 investment is education,” he said.
The candidate said community is important to him, and he encouraged those present to “lock arms” during the campaign, despite differences. “I will make you this promise. We are not going to agree on everything,” he said. “But what are the issues you want me to take to the commission? I’m a public servant.”
About 80 people attended the evening reception. The current commissioners for District I are David Ballard, a Democrat, and Tonya Burchfield, a Republican.
David Ballard said any new blood on the commission would be a good thing. “Diversity of age is a good thing, and he has youthful enthusiasm. I think he has a good chance.”
Aaron Astor, PhD, is a professor at Maryville College and said Cook will be a big supporter of education in Blount County.
“He just hit on it. He talked about the importance of education in Blount County. I see it on the back end. Some students are prepared and some aren’t,” Astor said.
Astor said if the economy in Blount County is going to continue to grow, education must be a main priority because companies want well-prepared and well-educated employees to compete with others around the country and around the world. “I think the business community recognizes that. Most realize the importance of a good educational system,” Astor said. “I think (Cook) gets that - it’s a global economy.”
Kathryn Ross of Maryville said having Cook on the commission would be a good thing. “I certainly think we need a balance with the Republican-dominated commission,” she said.
Ross said the county needs commissioners who will hear the concerns of everyone in the community. “I was impressed with Brandon and what he has to offer. I’m glad to call him a friend,” she said.
Linda Kinte of Louisville voiced her support for Cook. “All I can say is I’m behind him 100 percent. He’s the best person for the citizens of Blount County,” she said. “I think he’ll do what he says he’ll do. He’s a go-getter.”
Marge Fugate of Blount County said Cook would represent her on the commission if he’s elected. “I’ve seen Brandon come along with our party and grow. He’s gone to school, and he’s educated,” she said.
Fugate lamented that often people don’t give Democrats in Blount County a chance because it’s a Republican-dominated county. “We have good candidates with good backgrounds and education and because they have a “D” next to their name, people don’t vote for them.”
Ben Rauhuff of Blount County said Cook would make a good commissioner. “He’s got the county’s concerns and the people’s concerns at heart,” he said.
Former Blount County Democratic Party chair Dave Finch said he also has watched Brandon grow. “He’s really blossomed into a real homespun kind of guy motivated to try his best for Blount County. He’s going to do well,” Finch said.
Blount County Democratic Party chair Tony Webb said Cook would be a different kind of commissioners. “He will be a commissioner who listens to the people of that county. It would be refreshing,” Webb said. “That’s what it’s all about, doing what the people want.”