By Pete Zamplas- Tim Griffin offers himself to Republican primary voters May 6 as an even more conservative alternative to incumbent Tommy Thompson, calling for a prompt tax rate decrease.
Griffin, 49, is making his first run for the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, after a 30-year local law enforcement career that ended this month with his retirement. He worked 24 years with Hendersonville Police, rising to lieutenant.
He twice sought to be sheriff. First, he ran in 2006. He lost in the GOP primary to Rick Davis, who two years later hired him as patrol captain. After Davis’ resignation, Griffin was among 11 who applied to get appointed sheriff two years ago. The chosen new sheriff reassigned Griffin, to lieutenant supervising most purchasing, all contract positions and school resource officers (SRO). He was also a major incident commander, and firearms instructor. He said his finance experience would help him deal with tax dollars, as a commissioner.
Timothy Van Griffin has been a firefighter for 34 years, and an emergency medical technician (EMT). He was Valley Hill deputy chief. He has instructed DARE drug resistance to youth, for 23 years. He raised nearly $60,000 for Special Olympics over a decade, by camping out on a billboard. He announces junior varsity football and wrestling for East Henderson High, his alma mater, and coaches Lady Eagle JV girls in softball. He avidly roots on football Eagles, from the sidelines.
“I’m a local boy, blue collar all of my life,” Griffin said. “My Dad instilled a large work ethic in me.” He said he has studied land-use and other issues, to “learn as I go. Common sense and the ability to do what’s right and best for your taxpayers — that’s the majority of what’s required. And I possess that.”
Election of three of the five commissioner seats in the primary can tilt balance of power. “I’ve seen many 3-2 votes, a division. I hope we won’t have that,” Griffin said. “I really don’t have an alliance with anyone,” he said. He acknowledged “I’ve talked a good bit with Larry Young and Grady Hawkins.” They are generally deemed the most conservative on spending, and are often outvoted. Griffin said of District 4 Edneyville-area commissioner Thompson, “Tommy’s also conservative. We are similar, in many goals. I’m 100 percent for paying the teachers a pay supplement” to reward and retain them, and using some of reserve money to do so. They both back public safety agency funding, inducements for more industry and hosting more athletic tourneys and its visitors.“I differ from him mainly over a purchase (for the Recreation and Activity Center), and the bailout package to the Flat Rock Playhouse,” Griffin said. Of seven candidates for three seats, only Griffin calls for a county homeless teen shelter. “Someone has to look after these kids,” he said. Normally a social agency runs such a facility. Griffin said the county could at least help with matching grant funding, or with a committee recruiting “mental and medical health professionals” and others to volunteer. He also suggests adding a fifth county animal enforcement officer to boost investigation of violations, and redoing code to ban round-the-clock chaining of pets to “save some animals’ lives and prevent their abuse.”
As a SWAT team member, he raided drug houses. “In the vast majority of drug raids, you see an aggressive canine at the residence. They’re there for one reason, to intercept you. They’re kept on small leashes. Or they use big logging chains, for strong pits. Tell me, why do you need eight pit bulls, chained up at your front door? These dogs are used to protect drug sellers’ homes, or for fighting and gambling.” He said he saw “definite evidence dog fights had gone on” in some local homes. Griffin now urges a property tax decrease, ahead of current finance details. “I want a tax reduction this year (2014-15 starting July 1), of maybe a penny or so. I think you’ll see a tax decrease from the sitting commissioners. I’d be disappointed, if there isn’t one. I’d definitely vote for a tax decrease, and lobby the other commissioners to do that.”He said “any reduction helps, the way many families are struggling. Who knows where this Obamacare health care junk is going,” and what it will cost the medically insured.” He said though local unemployment has dropped, “if you’re in that 5.1 percent that does not have a job, a tax break helps. It helps our small businesses survive. It could preserve or even generate some jobs.”Griffin figures the county can slice taxes by trimming “non-essential spending” and by saving less for emergencies — closer to its target of 12 percent, rather than the greater cushion of late. He said while the bond rating stays premium with much extra savings, “on the flip side, we can turn loose some of that money. We owe it to our taxpayers, to give them a tax break. That’s why I’m running.”In doing so, he said, much or even all of the nearly $1 million of debt the county is on track to pay off by July 1 could still go to new projects — rather than further pad the “overage fund.”He supports going ahead with the planned new medical education center. “We have to develop that. It’s going to be absolutely huge. Someone could study here at Blue Ridge Community College, then Wingate and end up with a master’s degree, then work for Pardee Hospital.” He also backs renovating and expanding Hendersonville High School; its elder section was built in 1926. “It’s in dire need of repairs,” along with the similarly-aged Balfour Education Center alternative school.“We need to spend more money on kids, instead of $2.5 million on an abandoned (Hendersonville Christian) school. It won’t bring much money in. It’ll cost us, such as maintenance of that old facility and the power bill to run the big field lights.”Griffin wants artificial turf eventually at the four local high schools, perhaps a field at a time. It costs $500,000 to “turf a field including leveling it and gravel drainage. It looks gorgeous,” and it costs much less than grass to maintain. “But as much as I’d love to do it, we have much more to focus our school money on.”He favors hiring more school resource officers (SRO). Two of four middle schools have an SRO, and he wants the other two to each have one. He suggests having them available also for elementary schools, which do not have their own SROs. He sees added SROs funded either by the sheriff (as is usual) and/or schools. He said, “I don’t think you can put a price on a child’s safety. An SRO is also a good role model, to talk to if something’s going on at home. Or to let know, if you see drugs or weapons at school.” Tim and Paula Caulder Griffin’s daughters are Jordan, 24, who works in a troubled youth home in Asheville; and Lindsey, an East Henderson junior and varsity softball pitcher. For more information, check electtimgriffin.com.