I’ve been attending Knox County Commission meetings since I got into this race. As I’ve said before, I think a candidate for office should be familiar with what he or she would do if elected. So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do the last few months.
In watching how the meetings go and reviewing the Commission agendas and their attachments, I can see that the Commission’s work is concentrated mainly in a few areas. You can see some of what they do here. Budgets and appropriation of taxpayer money and taxing power. Zoning issues/changes. Implementing new laws or changing or eliminating existing laws. This includes being involved in the review and potential revision of the Knox County Charter (which is going on right now). I would say that’s at least 75% of the job. Probably more.
I like to make the comparison between the County Commission and the United States Congress. The Commission is smaller, of course, but the same principles apply. The Commission writes and changes laws. It has committees that focus on certain areas. The County Charter gives the Commission some oversight over the actions of the County Mayor. Likewise, the Mayor can veto acts of the Commission and the Commission can overrule that veto. The Commission even has subpoena power.
Suffice to say, there is a lot going on at the Commission and the Commission has a lot of power to affect the lives of Knox County residents. So, considering my view that the process for getting development approved in Knox County doesn’t seem to include everyone in the process, I thought I would take a look at the backgrounds of the Commissioners who are sitting there. I saw that there are people who have genuinely been involved in public service. A retired educator, a police officer. People involved in giving back to the community, either through volunteering or through their jobs. You know what I also found? Seven of the eleven Commissioners have extensive experience in the business world. And, while there are some with local government experience (Register of Deeds; Trustee’s office), no one with legal training.
I think this shows that the Commission doesn’t have enough community diversity in the perspectives and backgrounds of its members. Commissioners who can speak to the needs of the business community? Sure, plenty of that. But where are the other viewpoints?
In addition, there is no one on the commission with legal experience. I’ll admit that people in business probably have a lot of experience in areas that have legal implications. Like with contracts, for instance. And certainly there are people on the Commission who have worked in local government and had to deal with laws and regulations in their jobs. But there is no one on the Commission whose job it was to argue about, interpret and write about laws and regulations.
So, there’s an election coming up – August 6. The voters of District 4 will choose a new County Commissioner for their District. The choice is yours truly and the winner of the Republican primary – Kyle Ward. Kyle is an Air Force veteran. I’m glad he chose to serve and I’m glad that, no matter what else happens, there will be a veteran as Commissioner from District 4. Kyle is also a small business owner. I have nothing but praise for Kyle as a business owner. It’s a really hard thing to do – to start a business.
But, honestly, we’ve got enough business perspective on the Commission. We need someone who can stand up for the little guy. While I haven’t started a business in my life, what I have done is dedicate my adult life to public service. I served 20 years in the military and am a retired lawyer. I worked as the military equivalent of a public defender and stood with Airmen who were facing criminal charges and/or in danger of having their careers cut short. I also worked for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where I worked with individual consumers and helped them fight back against big banks and other consumer financial companies. I will use my experience in public service and standing up for the little guy in my position as Knox County Commissioner, if I am fortunate enough to be elected in August. That’s the perspective that is needed on the Commission.
As for legal experience on the Commission, I admit that it’s not a need to have. The Commission works closely with the Law Director’s office and gets excellent legal advice from them. But I have seen the documents that the Commissioners have to review in the course of their work. Just recently, the Mayor’s unfortunate TVA Tower deal included contracts and legal documents that are 100s of pages long. I will be able to use my experience and expertise in legal matters to ask the right questions and drill down into the details of matters like this. I believe my legal experience is going to give me a headstart in being ready to take on the very important job of being a legislator in Knox County this Fall.