Change of address fills commissioner seat

Published 1:39 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2022

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Rick Barker died shortly after winning one of three 2nd district county commission seats during the August election. His daughter-in-law, Haley Barker, was appointed to that seat during the Claiborne Commission meeting Monday evening. She will hold the position until the next regular election in August 2024.

The appointment came with a bit of controversy as commissioners must reside within the district they are representing. Barker lived in the 3rd district prior to recently making a change of address at the local driver’s license office. While there, she reportedly filled out a new voter registration card with the change of address notice forwarded to the Claiborne Election Commission Office. This occurred the first week in October, according to Carolyn O’Dell, administrator of the Claiborne Election Commission.

There was a second bit of controversy during the county commission meeting. David Guy, who lost his bid for a 2nd district seat in August, was nominated by an audience member. However, according to county attorney James Estep III, only those sitting on the commission can nominate someone to fill a vacant seat. Any nominations made by the public must be submitted to the commission prior to the meeting in which the vote is held so that a commissioner can officially present the nomination.

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Commissioner Nathan Epperson nominated Barker, saying he and fellow 2nd district commissioner Gary Poore were in agreement that she should fill the seat.

Guy spoke following the vote.

“This is an outrage; an absolute outrage. I had to certify to run. It says in that, does it not Mr. lawyer, that she has to do the same. She has to have the same criteria as we had to run?”

Estep said Barker must qualify only as a commissioner – not as a candidate.

“This is not an election on a ballot. She’s elected to fill the vacancy until the next general election.”

Guy left the meeting following Barker’s oath of office.

In an interview, Barker said she hoped to honor her father-in-law by representing the district as he would have done.

She spoke of Guy’s concerns.

“I understand. It’s different because I didn’t run. At the time of election, I lived in the third district. So, I didn’t even get to vote for Rick. But, we have relocated. All the necessary paperwork is completed. A couple of the commissioners asked me personally about that and I let them know. I think that’s what upset him (Guy) the most is that there were two other people who ran including him. And, the commissioners decided to go with the family wishes to appoint someone to his (the late Rick Barker) seat.

“I’m not sure I wouldn’t feel the same way if I had been part of the election and I wasn’t considered. I don’t want there to be any bad blood with David Guy. I respect him. This was more about family and respecting my father-in-law. I’m not trying to keep anyone out of anything or make anybody upset. I hate that he’s upset. This is just about family and doing what Rick would have wanted. I would never do anything to smear the Barker name.”

Barker says she is very interested in seeing the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency expansion project move forward.

“That is a project that could bring a lot of revenue to the second district and to the county as a whole. I would have been for that if I had been a commissioner at the time.”

Barker was appointed with a vote of 19 to one. Commissioner Tim Shrout, who cast the lone ‘no’ vote, said he chose to do so because he felt those who ran and initially lost during the election should also be considered for nomination.

An attempt to appoint Barker in October hit a snag when commissioners Epperson and Poore asked to suspend the rules to allow the nomination to occur. However, Estep advised the board that the appointment would be “out of order” as a public notification would need to be published in the newspaper at least seven days prior to the vote.