Venable may run for Sullivan mayor

Richard Venable


BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. – It appears Richard Venable wants his old job back.

The recently retired CEO of Networks – Sullivan Partnership and former county mayor picked up paperwork at the Sullivan County Elections Office Friday to run for mayor in the August election.

The means a potential showdown between Venable and current Mayor Steve Godsey in the May Republican primary.

Venable served as mayor from 2002 until 2006. He decided not to seek re-election so he could run for the 1st District U.S. House seat, but he lost that Republican primary.

Venable has until Thursday to file his paperwork at the Elections Office. Godsey has already filed his paperwork.

Venable could not be reached for comment Friday.

The 69-year-old has a long history of public service in Sullivan County. He served as a representative in the Tennessee General Assembly for years prior to serving as mayor. He was the head of Networks, an economic development organization, from 2007 until the end of last year.

“I did it backwards,” Venable told the Bristol Herald Courier in December before his retirement from Networks. “Most people start at local government and go to Nashville. I started at Nashville and came back to local government. That was a real benefit to me. I hope it was a benefit to the county.”

Venable announced his retirement last summer and he has been serving as a consultant to the organization.

Venable has been coy in recent months about whether he intended to run for mayor, but he has been seen at County Commission meetings. When asked about a possible candidacy, he told the Herald Courier months ago that when he retired he planned to help with the family business, but admitted that people had asked him to launch a campaign for the position.

In recent weeks, there has been some criticism of Godsey. He bungled the transition from the previous county highway commissioner, who resigned, to the interim highway commissioner.

Under state statute, a highway commissioner who resigns or retires names his or her successor until a permanent replacement is named by the County Commission. Former Highway Commissioner Terry Shaffer wrote Godsey a letter naming his successor in December. But Godsey didn’t open the letter, instead telling Highway Department employee Jim Montgomery to run the department until the commission made an appointment.

Commissioners were prepared to do so in January because they didn’t know about the letter. After much debate, Godsey opened the letter, which named department employee Bobby Manning as interim highway commissioner.

Manning has been running the department for the last few weeks and he fired six employees in a cost-saving move that he said resulted from bad advice from Godsey. The county mayor denied Manning’s statement and said he told him to hire the employees back.

Also on the Republican primary ballot will be April Mumpower. David Webb has filed to run as an independent.

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