Sewanee Community Council: Meet the Candidates

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of interviews with some of the local candidates running for office. Federal & State General Elections, and Muncipal Election voting is Nov. 8. Early voting for the Sewanee Community Council will be from Oct. 19–Nov. 3 at the Lease Office. Regular voting will take place at Sewanee Elementary School coincident with the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

District 1 — one open seat

Ben Tarhan — Ben is a recent Sewanee transplant, having moved here in the fall of 2020. A Brooklyn native, Ben has fallen in love with the Sewanee lifestyle and is looking for ways to give back. During the day, you can find Ben working from home as a software developer, and in his spare time, he likes to spend time with his fiancée Elise, plus their two dogs and five cats.

District 2 — one open seat

Julia Bates — I’ve been an educator for my adult career, first teaching English in middle and high school and then working in a teacher preparation program at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. I have also run a nonprofit community grants organization and was the liaison between St. Mary’s College and the St. Mary’s County Public Schools for several grant projects. I became a grants consultant and program assessor for public school grants.

My husband of 49 years, Robin Bates, and I have retired to Sewanee. Currently, I am Board President of the Hospitality Shop Auxiliary and a Godly Play Sunday school teacher at St. Mark and St. Paul.

Ben Beavers — My name is Ben Beavers, and I am running for election to the Sewanee Community Council in District 2. I graduated from the Sewanee Academy and then attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville. My wife and I moved back to the Mountain in 1993 and have lived in the Jump Off community since 2004. We have two children that were born and grew up in Sewanee.

I previously served on the community council, representing District 2 when we lived on the Domain. I am a member of the Sewanee Volunteer Fire Department and have served in various volunteer roles at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School. I was a small business owner for 15 years in Sewanee as well. Currently, I am the manager of the Sewanee Utility District.

I look forward to being an active voice for all the people in District 2 and would appreciate your consideration.

District 3 — one open seat

No Candidates. We will accept late petitions for District 3 until Nov. 3. Qualified candidates submitting a petition by the deadline will be included in the Nov. 8 regular election. Petitions will be available from John Solomon or at the University Lease Office.

District 4 — one open seat

Marilyn Phelps — I moved to Sewanee in 2012 with my husband Tom Phelps , C’74. I am a retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker and worked as a private practitioner here for 10 years. My husband and I have been co-chairs of the fundraising committee of the Sewanee Community Chest. I finished 4 years as a board member of Folks at Home in December. I think my experience with Folks at Home and the Sewanee Community Chest, as well as my professional experience as a social worker for 30 years, has enabled me to understand the needs of our community. I look forward to serving on the Community Council if I am elected.

At-Large — two open seats

Rhea Bowden — Rhea Bowden is running for an open at-large seat on the Community Council. He is a 1976 graduate of the University. Rhea and his wife, Nancy, have owned a home in the Deepwoods area since 2010, and moved to the Mountain in 2013. After a 32-year career in sales and manufacturing in Greenville, South Carolina, and a 12-year stint with the University Relations department at Sewanee, Rhea retired in July 2020. He is a member of the Monteagle-Sewanee Rotary Club and is active in various service projects the Club engages. Rhea is very appreciative of the people who live and work in Sewanee and is deeply interested in the welfare of the community.

Laura Willis — Laura Willis has lived in Sewanee since 1991 when her husband, John, joined the College faculty. They have raised two sons here and have been active members in the community.

For 10 years, Laura was the director of the Community Action Committee where she mobilized volunteers to greatly expand the CAC’s services. She was later editor of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger, adding new voices and columns to the weekly paper. She also has served as the University’s representative to the Duck River Electric Membership Corp. Laura has been involved in many area organizations including the University Day Care Center, Sewanee Business Alliance, and Folks at Home.

Serving on the Community Council as an at-large member, Laura believes she can offer fair and thoughtful representation to the entire community rooted in her years of experience in Sewanee.

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