Brentwood businessman John Byers made his run for the Board of Commissioners official Tuesday, turning in his qualifying petition to the Williamson County Election Commission two days ahead of the Feb. 16 deadline.
The Home Page spoke with the father of three and vice president and resident sales director at Aon Insurance several weeks ago when he was still pondering a run, and checked in again with him at the end of January. Both times he signaled a strong desire to compete in Brentwood’s municipal elections, but said he had not yet made up his mind 100 percent.
Byers’s entry into the race ensures the municipal elections, scheduled for May 2, will be competitive, as there are now four candidates running for three open commission seats. Commissioners Mark Gorman, Rhea Little and Regina Smithson are all running to retain their positions in city government.
Gorman is seeking his second term in office, Little his third and Mayor Smithson her seventh.
Byers, petition in hand, was joined at the Election Commission by his friend, local entrepreneur Mark Cleveland. Before turning in his paperwork, the first-time candidate stopped in down the hall at the office of County Mayor Rogers Anderson to introduce himself.
Anderson had some friendly words of advice for the political novice, telling him it’s always important to have more names than required on a qualifying petition because some of the folks you thought were sure things probably won’t be registered correctly. He also encouraged him to pick up some extra voter registration cards to hand out to prospective supporters.
“There’s no substitute for asking, ‘Where do you live and can I have your vote?’” Anderson said.
Byers hoped the petition in his hand had enough extra signatures on it as he and Cleveland walked over to the Election Commission. He was sure the first name was OK: Vanessa Byers. His wife.
“She said, ‘I wanna be the first person to sign it,’” Byers said.
Byers asked some of the commission workers if they would be kind enough to go through the names on his petition and ensure they were valid. After all, if for some reason, as Anderson had warned, enough names lacked proper registration, Byers could find himself ineligible to run come the Thursday petition deadline.
He waited expectantly for a few minutes at the front desk, Williamson County voting district maps on the walls next to him, as the workers checked names. Pretty soon he got the OK from Administrator of Elections Chad Gray. He’d had just enough names. Byers smiled and shook Gray’s hand.
That was it. He was in.
Walking out of the commission office, Cleveland and Byers began strategizing. Byers needed a hashtag, Cleveland eagerly suggested, before enthusiastically throwing out a torrent of them. How about #newBrentwood? #engergizedBrentwood? #Brentwood4Byers? Cleveland especially liked that last one.
“It’s positive. Looks good, too,” he said.
“Beautiful, I love it,” Byers said. Cleveland quickly tweeted out a picture of his friend in the election office.
In the parking lot, the two men chatted for a few minutes about the journey up to that point before going their separate ways. Cleveland had been one of Byers’s main encouragers to get in the race.
“There’s a difference between ambition and capability,” Cleveland said, stating his belief that Byers had the latter.
As he walked to his car, Byers reflected on his day. He woke up this morning a private citizen and would go to sleep tonight a candidate for public office in a race against three incumbents in a city with a history of low voter turnout in municipal elections. How did he feel about that?
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “There’s certainly a dichotomy of relief yet urgency to take the next steps and put the campaign team together and get ready for the election.”
Important dates to know about Brentwood’s upcoming municipal elections:
Voter Registration Deadline: Monday, April 3
Early Voting Period: Wednesday, April 12 through Thursday, April 27
Election Day: Tuesday, May 2