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PRINCETON — A recently reelected member of the Mercer County Commission is looking forward to the next six years and what they could bring the county in terms of infrastructure, economic development, tourism and how all three areas could help address the area’s problems with drug abuse.

Mercer County’s residents voted Tuesday to give Republican incumbent Greg Puckett, 50, of Princeton a second term on the Mercer County Commission. Puckett was first elected in 2014.

During his campaign for reelection, Puckett said that some of his primary goals in a next term include working on infrastructure, tourism, diversification of tax revenue and the addiction crisis.

Puckett said Friday that he ran for office back in 2014 because he wanted to see some change in the county commission.

“It was everything I thought it would be and more,” he said of his time in office and working with fellow commissioners Gene Buckner and Bill Archer. “And we challenged each other to accomplish some goals; and having been reelected, I think there is a strong understanding of how to move this county forward in a positive direction.”

When Puckett was asked what he hoped to see happen Mercer County during the coming six years, he replied that there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

“I think the first six years were for getting your partnerships together and learning the ropes, and the next six years are to capitalize on all the knowledge gained,” Puckett stated. “We need to focus on five basic things. The main thing is to increase our infrastructure, focusing on water projects, sewer projects, and making sure that we have land readily available, ready-made sites for businesses that want to come here and set up shop. And that includes broadband because without broadband in today’s world, we can’t compete with other communities.”

The second and third things the county needs to focus on “go hand-inhand,” Puckett said.

“The thing is we’ve got to focus on our substance abuse issues,” he stated. “We’ve done a really good job educating the community about the pill problems, but now that we’ve done such a good job with pills – with pills, that’s a drug of choice – but we are dealing with addiction as a culture. Yes, it started with pills, but now we are transitioning to more heroin and meth; and that is what’s causing our constant overdose issues and creating a mental health epidemic with a physical pandemic.”

Mercer County is also dealing with addiction issues such as alcohol and tobacco, which “gives us an unhealthy society,” Puckett added. “We’ve got to constantly work on solving those issues.”

“This is where the second part comes in,” he continued. “With an addiction society and unhealthy lifestyles, it is difficult to recruit strong economic investment; however, if we are successfully recruiting economic opportunities, substance abuse goes down. People have jobs, people have hope, they have opportunities. Businesses also have to have a drug-free workforce, so they go hand-inhand.”

Improving infrastructure, creating economic opportunities and addressing drug abuse also help the county’s growing tourism industry, Puckett said.

“You start off with infrastructure, substance abuse. Then you’ve got economics, and so you build those three,” he said. “And then when you have those things come together and you incorporate tourism, then all of the society starts to grow at once. Tourism is the fourth part, and tourism helps grow the economy, the economics helps solve the substance abuse issues.”

Keeping up work to clean up litter and illegal dumping areas is another part of improving Mercer County.

“And the last thing is continuing to make sure we clean up our community and hold people accountable,” Puckett said. “We need to find ways for proper disposal. We need to deal with dilapidated structures, and we need to find ways to help place businesses in areas that are more conducive to economic growth. All of those things fit together, and so sometimes it’s difficult because you can’t focus on one thing. You have to focus on everything simultaneously. And that’s why it takes everybody working together.”

Puckett said that working with his fellow commissioners was important.

“We may not always agree, but that’s why you have a difference of opinion to drive us forward in a positive direction,” he stated. “Each one of us are unique. I have certain things I know more about; and likewise, Gene (Buckner) and Bill (Archer) have more things that they know more about. We don’t always have to agree. We just have to do what’s in the best interest of the people.”

Puckett added that he was excited about his new term.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting time,” he said. “Now it’s time to get to work.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com

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