Couple straddles fence in politics for business profits

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Now that Lewisburg residents know who their new mayor will be, some might still be wondering about who those folks in that house on Cornersville Highway voted for in the mayor's race.

"I'll vote for one and you vote for the other," Dennis Deitz replied Monday when he and his wife, Sharon, were interviewed in their home at 875 Cornersville Highway about the signs for Barbara Woods and Jerry Freeman at their driveway apron.

Parked in front of the couple's home is a pickup truck painted with the name of their family business: 359-SIGN. They've been selling signs to candidates and others for 17 years, having started in Rutherford County where the business continues as 895-SIGN.

"We've done all kinds of elections for both candidates," Deitz said of how the business has customers on both sides of the political fence. "We've had one candidate going out the back door as the other candidate comes in the front."

That's happened more than a couple of times, they said, pleased with the ability to remain neutral - at least in the eyes of the candidates and other close observers who may notice the signs for opposing candidates in the front yard of one home.

"I've had people who have jokingly say, 'You only get one vote,'" Sharon Deitz said.

So, as this Lewisburg couple seemed to be emerging as the other winners of the election, regardless of the results of Tuesday's balloting, their product has been the target of a city employee - Greg Lowe, the codes enforcement officer.

Lowe has been enforcing the campaign sign law that says: No signs on public row. t may not have been a well-known part of the city code, but that section isn't unique. Other Tennessee municipalities have such a law that usually means a candidate's yard sign is supposed to be on a voter's front yard.

"We didn't do as good a job in the past of enforcing the law," City Manager Eddie Fuller said. "There's no sense in having the ordinance without enforcement.

"But now we've started enforcement and we picked up three of Jerry Freeman's signs, one of Hershel Davis' and one of Ronnie Joe Hudson and we returned them to those candidates.

"And we had a couple of calls about signs on the Bypass at 31A," Fuller said of Franklin Road and Ellington Parkway. "They're not to be on the public right of way."

The T-intersection of Ellington Parkway and the access road at the KFC restaurant was another good, but illegal location.

Such high traffic intersections may have been a popular place for yard signs, Lowe said, but there were some other places such as the traffic island at the intersection of Hull Avenue and Fox Lane. Candidates' signs were spotted there where the island separated lanes of opposing traffic at a residential area.

Meanwhile, the Deitz couple faced a business question on political correctness: Which of the mayoral candidates' signs should have been closer to the highway? Perhaps they're perfecting the score sheet for a game of musical signs.