KNOXVILLE –- If he’s asked what he did during his summer vacation, University of Tennessee junior Nicholas Bishop will have a unique response: He was elected to Morgan County Commission.
Nicholas Bishop Bishop, 22, a communications major, was the top vote-getter among the five candidates running for the three seats in his district.
Bishop said he wanted to run because he loves Morgan County and his hometown of Sunbright. Northwest of Knoxville, Morgan County has a population of about 20,132, and Sunbright has a population of about 600.
“I see a lot of problems in my community that affect everyone, especially my generation, and I felt I could make some type of positive difference,” he said.
Politics have been a lifelong interest, said Bishop, the son of Freddy and Cheryl Bishop of Sunbright, and a graduate of Sunbright High School.
“I remember my kindergarten class wrote a letter to President Bush Sr. He wrote us back, and we posted his letter on the wall. That really stuck with me.”
Bishop’s uncle has held elected office and his father, though not an office-holder, has given him some good advice.
“My Dad always says that anytime you’re dealing with three or more people, you’re into politics.”
Bishop devoted much of his summer to campaigning.
“Early on, I told myself that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right and give it everything I had.
“I think I had the first campaign sign up in the county. I wrote a letter explaining who I was, why I was running, what my goals were, and why I thought I was the man for the job. I sent it to roughly 250 households in May, and I ran it as an ad in the local paper.
“I went door to door all summer. I knocked on more than 300 doors. It was a lot of fun. I sat on a lot of front porches and at a few dinner tables. Most people just want someone to hear their side of things.
“I didn’t make any crazy promises that I couldn’t keep. The only promise I made was that I would work as hard as I could and I wouldn’t let anyone down.”
On Election Day, Bishop’s family and friends stood outside the polls wearing T-shirts with his name on it.
“I shook hands and gave out pieces of gum for 13 hours straight. Most candidates give out cards at the polls. I never liked that; I thought gum would make more sense. It was good gum and it was miserably hot that day, so it kind of kept your mouth wet. Maybe the gum helped me get votes, you never know.”
On election night, he was in fourth place until the votes from Sunbright were counted. Then he shot up to first.
“I just think people are ready for a change,” he said. “I would have been happy with third because that would have got me in, but I’m not going to lie, I’m highly competitive and was shooting for first.”
Bishop will be sworn in on Aug. 31 at the Morgan County Courthouse.
As part of the county commission, Bishop will help set budgets for the school board, public safety and other services. He will help decide whether new taxes are levied. And he’ll help supervise other elected officials.
The Commission meets monthly and each of its committees meet monthly. He also plans to attend the City of Sunbright’s monthly meeting to stay abreast of local issues.
Bishop is living on campus, but planning on doing a lot of commuting.
“Morgan County is roughly an hour northwest of Knoxville. I scheduled my classes so I could go back and forth several nights a week, if necessary.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I’ll be a better person because of this experience and, hopefully, my community will be better, too.”
Bishop is studying for the LSAT and hoping to go to law school.
“I really enjoy dealing with people and solving problems. I want a job where I can make a good living, help people and make a difference in the world.
“Most of all, though, I want to do something that makes me happy.”
Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicholas Bishop, (865)617-6691, email@example.com