‘I will be candidate in 2014’

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Conway ends speculation, will seek re-election

By Ben Carlson

Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway laid to rest speculation that he won’t seek a second term in office by announcing Friday that he will run again in 2014.
Conway, a 20-year magistrate who was elected judge-executive in 2010, had suggested he wouldn’t seek re-election leading up to last Friday’s announcement due to ongoing controversies about recycling, building a swimming facility and two embarrassing state audits.
He said that changed after hearing from his supporters.
“A lot of people heard I wasn’t going to run and called me and told me they wanted me to run,” Conway said Friday afternoon by telephone. “I will be a candidate in 2014.”
Conway said the fiscal court has accomplished plenty during his 30 months in office, most notably doubling its surplus from $800,000 to $1.6 million while solving problems he says weren’t addressed under previous administrations such as buying ambulances, fixing the courthouse entrance and windows, replacing aging highway equipment and purchasing a suitable facility for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.
“The main thing is we haven’t accumulated much debt,” Conway said. “We’ve watched our spending and before I spend a dime, I talk to [county treasurer] Dudley Shryock before it’s brought to the finance committee. If the finance committee approves, then it’s brought to the fiscal court.”
He also pointed to his work as a voting member of the Anderson County Board of Health in solving serious financial issues brought about with the construction of a new health department building.
“I have worked diligently with health board members, especially [former chairman] Harold Todd, and got that back on track without raising taxes,” he said.
Frustrated over how the department was being run, Conway made headlines shortly after taking office by demanding that the previous health director be fired and that saying the former chairman of the board could “kiss his …”
The director later resigned and the chairman opted to relinquish his title to Todd.
Recycling, Conway said, has been the most frustrating issue of his first term in office, and began dogging his administration nearly from the start.
“Recycling drove me crazy and has been a pain from the get-go,” Conway said, who proposed early on to do away with residential curbside pickup and require property owners to purchase mandatory trash and recycling pickup from Allied Waste in an effort to cut costs.
Unable to muster enough support from magistrates, Conway next established a “green” committee, which was able to secure a state grant to purchase recycling bins and other equipment but also required the county to construct a recycling building.
That quickly turned into a financial nightmare when bids for the building came in at nearly $800,000 — well more than double what was expected.
Another rounds of bids came in much lower, and the building was approved.
With the building now nearly complete, the fiscal court is expected to vote Aug. 6 to end curbside pickup, a key element of the county’s new recycling program that he says may not pass.
“There’s some controversy on the court about stopping curbside pickup,” Conway said. “If I have my way it will be stopped, but there are a couple of magistrates on the court … I don’t know how they will vote.”
The swimming facility was a major element in Conway’s 2010 campaign, and he remains optimistic that it will be built next year. The fiscal court has already approved seeking architectural bids, but Conway said last week that the debt $2.8 million facility is too much for the fiscal court to pay at its current tax rate.
Getting it built, he said, will require him to raise $1 million in private donations, a tall task he said he remains committed to complete.
The audits for 2011 and 2012 revealed a litany of issues, most related to credit card purchases and problems following state bidding guidelines.
Conway said those problems are being solved and has hired a new finance officer to ensure they aren’t repeated.