Do you support the privatization of prison system?
There is significant agreement that the prison system is overwhelmed, inefficient, and ill-equipped to handle today’s demands and challenges.
I believe the private sector, rather than the government, is better able and more appropriately positioned to cost-effectively manage prison operations.
Are you in favor of civil forfeiture of private property?
I fully support our law enforcement agencies and keeping our citizens safe from criminals. I also support the Republican Party platform regarding civil forfeiture reform to ensure the rights of all Americans are protected from abusive property seizures.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana?
I oppose legalization of recreational marijuana but am open to considering evidence from the medical community regarding the safe use of cannabis for medical reasons. I understand that marijuana can be used to treat pain, nausea, and other symptoms in patients, but our region is challenged with high drug use, impacting our citizens and community in a negative way. I want to continue protecting our youth and communities from illegal drugs.
What is your stance on open borders?
I do not support open borders. I support closed borders including building a wall to deter drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and all other criminal activity.
Will you support President Trump in Washington?
I support President Trump’s “Make American Great Again” policies, especially with regard to economics, trade, and the fight against bigger government. I will help President Trump fight to preserve all freedoms under the constitution. I will be a very strong advocate for the president in Congress.
What is your stance on the 2nd Amendment?
I believe in the 2nd Amendment and the right for all Americans to bear arms.
I am a responsible and law-abiding gun owner like many Americans.
I believe we should focus on respecting life more before taking away our freedoms.
Are you in favor of government-funded healthcare?
I do not believe in government-funded healthcare.
I believe in a patient-centered healthcare system, which is based in free markets, fosters competition, and drives healthcare costs down. I support individual states’ rights to govern how healthcare systems operate within their borders.
I believe healthcare systems that are funded and run by the government will reduce efficiency and the standard of care, as well as compromise the patient-physician relationship and increase waiting periods for treatment.
Did you align with former Governor Bill Haslam?
Yes, I aligned with former Governor Bill Haslam. I thought Haslam was a good governor and I agreed with his focus on education and economic opportunity. He really drove improvements in education — including Drive to 55, Tennessee Promise, and Tennessee Reconnect — across our state. He also furthered economic development by recruiting businesses to Tennessee that provided high-paying jobs.
Which party do you belong to?
I am a conservative Republican.
Is John your real name?
Yes. John is the English version of Juan. I have not changed my name.
Why did you vote to increase fees for garbage services in Kingsport?
Kingsport has been, and continues to be, the lowest cost of living city in the Tri-Cities. Despite this fact, Kingsport has struggled to attract and retain residents. When I became mayor in 2015, this was the most pressing issue we faced. Kingsport had been losing population organically every year but managed to show growth through annexation by city ordinance. Then the Tennessee state legislature voted to eliminate annexation by city ordinance as a planned growth tool a few years ago. In order to address this concern, the majority of the Kingsport BMA (including me) voted to raise the needed revenues to invest in quality of life improvements and address the city’s growth problem to encourage retention and attraction of residents to Kingsport. The BMA voted to make investments recommended by the OneKingsport initiative, an over two-year volunteer effort where approximately 250 businesses, community leaders, and citizens met to identify needed investments for our city. These investments included yearly road paving, beautification, creation of The Inventor Center, riverfront improvements, and upgrading the city’s many destination assets such as Bays Mountain Park. These improvements are enjoyed by Kingsport and regional residents every day.
As a result of these citizen-driven investments, along with the promotion of our city’s high quality of life, Kingsport’s population has grown by over 2% and 1,000 new residents over the past four years (according to recent census data). Therefore, the investments have resulted in helping Kingsport address its growth problem, all while continuing to maintain the lowest cost of living of the Tri-Cities.
Did you vote for the merger of MSHA and Wellmont Health Systems?
No, I did not vote for the merger. The Board of Mayor and Alderman (BMA), comprised of seven citizens elected to represent the city of Kingsport, did not have the authority or power to vote and approve the merger of Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and Wellmont Health Systems that created Ballad Health. It was the Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) — amended by legislation passed by STATE officials, not local officials — in 2015 that allowed the merger to move forward. As a member of the Kingsport BMA, I was not involved or engaged in the creation or approval of the merger, which was approved by the state of Tennessee in 2018. To infer or allege that I voted for the merger is incorrect.
Why did you support the merger? Do you regret this decision?
I did support the merger along with many other Kingsport business and community leaders. My reasoning was because I wanted to preserve as many jobs as possible in the region and maintain more local control of our healthcare. Maintaining the new regional healthcare system’s corporate headquarters in the Tri-Cities would preserve those jobs here versus having Wellmont and MSHA acquired by separate health systems headquartered outside Northeast Tennessee. I believed local control of our new regional system would be more beneficial to our communities than not having local control. We all know that Kingsport is an industrial city. Our citizens and the region have benefited from our industry partners’ excellent community involvement over many years, earning the trust of residents in their business decisions. And all our industries, including some of the largest employers in the region, decided to support the merger and regional consolidation of services. It is common knowledge that merging two entities will target redundancies and provide synergies for more efficient services. While I wish Ballad would not have needed to consolidate any services at any hospital, I realize maintaining the same services at all hospitals is not feasible nor sustainable moving forward. With the decisions made, Holston Valley Medical Center continues to remain a full-service tertiary hospital versus a community hospital.
After the merger, did you talk to Ballad management or its board of directors about citizens’ concerns regarding consolidation decisions?
Yes. I reached out privately several times and strongly voiced concerns to Ballad management and members of its board of directors from Kingsport, specifically about the decisions regarding the NICU and Level 1 trauma centers. These discussions did not change the outcome of Ballad’s decision concerning these two consolidations, just as public protests have not changed any decisions that Ballad has made. I’m aware that the status of healthcare in our region is an important issue for everyone. Healthcare is personal. It impacts families in a very direct way. But being a businessman, I also understand that sometimes tough choices must be made to keep a business afloat. Do I like that Kingsport lost services? Absolutely not, and I did voice those concerns while mayor. I also took into consideration that there was no business or industry — not one — that pushed back on these decisions, and that the Tennessee and Virginia Departments of Health both approved the merger and did not object to these decisions.
Are you being paid by Ballad?
No. I have never been paid by Ballad. Further, I have never been asked to work for Ballad in any capacity.
Have you ever been paid by your former employer, Agfa, as a consultant?
No. I retired from Agfa in March 2015, prior to my first term as mayor. Agfa asked that I stay on to consult and assist my successor during his one-year transition, but no agreement for consulting was ever reached because of time requirements. I wanted to spend much more time in public service, working with Kingsport leaders and fellow citizens to support our city and see it grow and prosper. In 2017, after the beginning of my second term, Agfa once again reached out asking me to be a consultant. I indicated I’d be agreeable to do one project a quarter for them, but we could not reach agreement on projects and time requirements, and as a result, I have never worked for or been paid by Agfa as a consultant since I retired in 2015.
Were you retired when you became mayor in 2015?
Yes. I retired from Agfa in March 2015 after 36 years of service in the healthcare industry. I was sworn into office in early July 2015. Since my retirement, I have had no involvement in Ballad and Agfa’s business relationship.
Did you lie about Wellmont being in financial trouble?
No. It was public knowledge that Wellmont was looking for a buyer/partner due to concerns about the future of the healthcare industry with issues like high deductible plans, changes to Obamacare, inadequate Medicare reimbursement allocations, and no federal Medicaid expansion approval in Tennessee and Virginia. With these headwinds, Wellmont was looking at ways to maintain financial stability. As mayor, I served on the Holston Valley Community Board for four years, during which time I learned firsthand the significant financial difficulties faced by Holston Valley Medical Center (Wellmont’s flagship tertiary hospital). So, to clarify what I have said, when I stated that Wellmont was in financial trouble, I was referring to the fact that Wellmont’s flagship hospital, Holston Valley, was in financial trouble and that Wellmont was very concerned about its future financial viability. That was not a lie.
What are you doing to protect the region from medical monopolies?
In the case of Ballad, this merger was allowed to move forward regardless of Federal Trade Commission concerns. The COPA process does permit a state to judge for itself whether consolidation and rationalization may be in the best interests of its residents. In these cases, the ultimate decision resides with the states, not the federal agency. Such was the case in Tennessee with the passage of the amended COPA in 2015.
What are your thoughts on the creation of a hospital authority?
Tennessee legislation provides for the creation of a hospital authority. I understand the requirements for the creation of a hospital authority in this region have not been met, so this would not be an option to consider. The decision again would reside with state authorities.