Newly-elected Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams said he has big plans for Floyd County.
In an interview Thursday, he said his top priorities include recruiting jobs, working to develop potential industrial sites he has identified, prioritizing needs to improve county roads, improving county infrastructure, evaluating the county budget, putting more of an emphasis on combating drug abuse and other measures.
“I want to thank everyone that supported me, from the bottom of my heart,” Williams said. “It was, I developed relationships, met people all over the county, great people. I want them to know that I have made promises, big promises, throughout this election, and I intend to keep them all. I’m going to work day and night to do what I promised the voters. I’m going to get jobs in here. We’re going to feel good about living in Floyd County again. I want people to feel like they’re part of something here.”
Shortly after announcing his candidacy for the seat, Williams had already reviewed the county budget. He said he’s identified two properties that could be converted into industrial sites and areas of the budget that could be cut.
“There’s some things we can cut in the budget, but I prefer to, let’s just hold our ground, at this point, and let’s try to increase our tax base,” he said. “And we do that by making the county more attractive for folks to live here, for people to want to build homes here and stay here and work, create jobs. I want to look for funding opportunities. I don’t want to continue cutting basic services.”
Williams, a political newcomer, will be the first Independent elected to the Floyd County judge-executive seat.
He was, however, registered as a Democrat about six months prior to signing up to seek the judge-executive seat.
“As far as being an Independent, I think in a true essence, yes, I’ve always been an Independent,” he said. “I don’t vote party lines. I vote the individual. I’ve always felt like parties don’t make decision. Parties don’t prepare budgets. Parties don’t hire and fire people. Those decisions are made by individuals.”
Still, as an Independent, Williams had much to overcome in Floyd County, where a large portion of voters prefer making straight party-line votes. On Election Day, 2,575 people voted that way in the county, and there are no straight party-line vote options available for Independent candidates.
He said it feels “overwhelming,” knowing that his election ends a decades-old Democratic stronghold on the judge-executive’s seat.
He said, “There are so many people I have to thank in Floyd County. You just would not believe the support I got, and had to get, to overcome the…Democratic-leaning politics of Floyd County.”
Talking about how 2,500 party-line votes “right out of the gate were off the board” for him on Election day, Williams said, “This is a big win. I feel like we’ve accomplished something here.”
He beat Democrat James “Jimmy” Rose by 953 votes on Tuesday. The final tally was 5,374 votes for Williams, 4,421 votes for Rose and 3,273 votes for Republican John DeRossett.
Rose won by a narrow margin of more than 30 votes when he campaigned against sitting Judge-Executive Ben Hale in the primary election in May, following a contentious campaign in which Rose rallied against “taxes, taxes, taxes,” and he vowed to repeal the insurance premium tax the fiscal court approved if he were elected — a move the current fiscal court took shortly after Rose won the Democratic nomination during the primary election.
During a political forum held recently by Appalachian Newspapers, Williams said he had no intention of bringing back the insurance premium tax, adding an occupational tax or increasing taxes. He would not, however, take the option of increases taxes off the table when he talked about ways the county could increase revenue.
Addressing a question about the insurance premium tax, he said, “So, some of the things that we have to look at is budget cuts, initially. We have to get down there. We have to open the books up. Are we going to put the tax back on? We’re not. I do not plan on putting the tax back on. Taxes, increasing taxes, is the easy way out. That’s the easy way out. We have to find out how to generate more revenue, and that comes back to the economy. So what we’re going to have to do for a while is we’re going to have to slow things down, open the books up, make sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck, and, at that point, we can look at doing some things differently. But right now, we just have to stop the hemorrhaging.”
Addressing a question about county debt, Williams said, “As far as putting an occupational tax on businesses in Floyd County, I don’t agree with that at all. It’s, the businesses that we have, it’s just going to hurt the businesses. It’s going to hurt the business growth. Now, for me to stand up here and say, folks, we’re never going to increase taxes. That’s not true. I wish I could say that and comfort you and make you all feel good, but I can’t stand up here and say that taxes are never going to be increased. Anyone that does would be misleading you.”
He pledged that if taxes have to be implemented or increased, the public would be involved in the process and he emphasized the importance of strengthening the economy in the county.
During the forum, Williams agreed that the county needs a strategic plan, saying his top three goals in that plan would be improving the economy and infrastructure, as well as taking care of the elderly residents and veterans.
He voiced support for renovating the Martin Community Center, which the fiscal court has been trying to sell for more than a year, saying he has a group that is ready to help with that project.
Williams, a graduate of the former Wheelwright High School and Morehead State University, served nine years in the U.S. Marines and National Guard. After graduating college, he worked for a company that performed audits on fiscal courts throughout the state.
He went on to open several companies, including an accounting firm that he still owns. He said that work, however, won’t interfere with his work at judge-executive.
“If elected, I have folks that can take care of the day-to-day operations of that business,” he said. “I’m going to be a full time judge-executive.”
In January, the majority of the Floyd County Fiscal Court will be new, as two new magistrates will be taking their seats alongside Williams.
Magistrate Mike Tackett won his re-election bid for District 3, beating a write-in candidate by more than 1,700 votes on Tuesday, but two other magistrates are finishing up their final months in office.
Democrat Mark D. Crider easily beat his opponent, Republican Floyd Skeans of Allen, with a vote of 3,380 to 1,004 for the District 1 magistrate, which is currently held by John Goble.
Goble and Magistrate Randy Davis is District 2 did not survive the primary election. George Ousley gained a majority of votes against Davis in May, securing his place on the fiscal court, come January.