Have you ever heard of a politician holding two offices in Rutherford County at the same time? It could happen if Rutherford County Commissioner Robert Stevens wins both his re-election to the commission and the 49th District State Representative Seat.
Stevens is running unopposed in the Smyrna District 12 county commission race as a Republican. In the race for State Representative, he is running against incumbent Mike Sparks, also a Republican. Sparks once held a county commission seat himself, but never held both the commission seat and the state representative seat at the same time. Sparks called it "Unethical," in a recent phone conversation with WGNS Radio.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, this practice is usually referred to as "dual office-holding." Dual office-holding is generally defined as the practice of holding two elected offices at the same time at the state or local levels, paid or unpaid. At least 25-states in the U.S. prohibit a state lawmaker from holding a second elected position at the county or municipal level while holding the elected state position. Tennessee is not one of those states.
In Tennessee, a state elected representative can legally hold a second elected position at the county or municipal level. However, two elected state offices cannot be held by the same person at the same time. The situation of holding a state seat and a county seat at the same time is unusual, but not illegal.
WGNS spoke to Stevens at 2:45 on Wednesday (7/23/14) afternoon and he told us that if he is elected to both positions, he would resign from the County Commission seat. When asked why, he told us that holding both positions could present a conflict of interest. If Stevens resigned from the commission, that would leave district 12 unrepresented.