Commissioners present were; Commissioner Paul Pinkston, Commissioner Scott Moore, Commissioner Mark Harmon, Commissioner R. Larry Smith, Commissioner Phil Ballard, Fifth District County Commissioner Mike Hammond, Fifth District County Commissioner Craig Leuthold and Kim from the County Clerk’s office. Commissioner Craig Leuthold announced that Commission Vice-Chair and Interim Commission Chairman Thomas “Tank” Strickland was ill, Commissioner Greg Lambert was home sick and sent word by Commissioner Mark Harmon that he will watch the video of the forum. Commissioner Tony Norman and Commissioner Ivan Harmon arrived after the beginning of the forum and during the questioning of the first applicant Thomas Baer.
Candidates for other offices present were Fourth District Applicant Candidates Walter Wojnar, William Daniels and Elaine Davis, Fourth District Democrat County Commission candidate Steve Drevik, Fourth District Republican County Commission candidate Ruthie Stone Kuhlman, Democrat Candidate for Sheriff Randy Tyree, Democrat Candidate for Criminal Court Judge Ken Irvine.
Other notable attendees were Nick McBride, Interim Knox County Register of Deeds, Former Commissioner Frank Leuthold and wife June.
Commissioner Paul Pinkston announced that he had not received several resumes, including the first applicant’s.
Thomas Baer a resident of Knox County for 19 of the last 26 years. He brings 30 years experience in business, including President of many of them. He has served as a Project Manager with Bechtel Jacobs in Oak Ridge, TN. He worked on the Three Mile Island clean up. He is a Retired Navy captain with 10 years of command experience with 6 teams. He stated that he has a long history of volunteer service in Knoxville, primarily after his son Tommy Baer was killed on the UT campus in 1988. Thomas is a Founding member of a victim rights group in Knoxville, Has worked extensively on legislation surrounding campus safety and victim rights.
Commissioner R, Larry Smith said “this may sound funny. Do you have any criminal backgrounds and have you paid your taxes.” Smith followed up with “It got us last time.” Baer said “I have no criminal background and I have paid my taxes.”
Commissioner Paul Pinkston asked how long have you lived here? Baer said that he lived here and moved away for a few years. He was employed in Louisville, KY in the 1980’s and moved back in the late 80’s.
Commissioner Mark Harmon asked about his views on land use? Baer said “We need to have a very thought out plan. It can best if we have a plan. When we have a plan we must follow it.” “The School Board is building a new school on Hardin Valley Road. Hardin Valley Road looks good but Campbell Station Road doesn’t look so good.”
Commissioner Hammond asked “Will you wait to be sworn in?” “Yes.” Hammond asked “What would you like to do in 7 months?” Hammond said “I would like to see the Commission step up on schools.”
Commissioner Scott Moore said “Thank you for your willingness to serve. What can you do on day one to restore the confidence that everyone campaigned on?” Baer said “I will post on my website, every conversation that I have.” Commissioner Moore said “We will have 5 other audits coming out soon, the comptroller and Knox County auditor in a recently released audit said one thing and Commission did something entirely different.” “Do you put politics over principles or principles over politics?” Baer said “Principles come first.”
Commissioner Craig Leuthold asked if Baer had any known conflict of interest. Baer said “I am on a United Way selection panel. If selected (as the commission appointee), I will resign from that, to remove any perceived conflict.” Commissioner Leuthold gave Baer a copy of the Chancellor’s order. “If you are selected you will have to follow the Chancellor’s order.”
Next up was Dr. Richard Briggs He has lived in Knox County since 1992. He graduated from high school in France. He went on to graduate from institutions of higher learning and medical school. He served in Korea. He served on an academic faculty in San Antonia, Texas. He went on to Louisville, KY and worked with Dr. Robert Jarvik.
Commissioner Phil Ballard asked “How will you deal with the number of phone calls, and contacts.” Briggs answered “I have a 24 hour on call service; during the day my personal assistant takes calls during the day.”
Commissioner R. Larry Smith asked “if a meeting is called at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. can you attend them?” Briggs said that “my schedule is flexible; I have partners that can perform some of my duties.”
Commissioner Mark Harmon stated “We have a health department. Have you had any reaction to or interaction with the Health Dept.?” Briggs said “I have not looked at the health department budget.” Mark Harmon asked about land use? Briggs answered “I think that is an issue that we haven’t looked at more extensively. We may need to take a more technical approach.”
Commissioner Ivan Harmon: “Thank you for your willingness to serve and your service to our country.”
Commissioner Mike Hammond: asked “why would you want to serve?” Briggs said “I have always had a desire to serve. A sense of service, grateful for all that the country to serve.”
Commissioner Tony Norman in an obviously embarrassing comment said “It is obvious from the crowd here that they want you and it is a moot point for the appointment. They want you.” The embarrassing comment was Norman’s obvious ignorance that Briggs is being challenged by Independent candidate Don Sproles. Most of those in attendance were wearing Sproles lapel stickers and for Norman to remark this is appointment process is a moot point, is a potentially challenging question for Chancellor Fansler.
Sidebar Notes: I was sitting in close proximity to Commissioner Ivan Harmon and Commissioner Tony Norman. Commissioner Ivan Harmon asked Tony Norman if Briggs had any opposition. Norman shook his head no. I caught Ivan Harmon’s eye and I nodded and said Yes, Briggs has an Independent candidate opponent.
Secondly, R. Larry Smith did not ask Briggs or Treacy if they had paid their taxes or have a criminal background like he did Baer.
Fifth District County Commission Candidate appointee Theodore Piehl did not appear. Craig Leuthold called for Mr. Piehl and he did not come forward.
Pamela Treacy was introduced as an appointee applicant: “Yesterday I read the paper and only one person had applied. I feel that the person selected should not be a candidate that is running in the general election. I am much more of a sprinter than a marathon racer. I supported Briggs, but it is unfair to appoint a candidate on the general election ballot. She indicated that she is a business person, she is 47 years old. She spent 20 years in the cable television industry. She was the tenth employee hired at HGTV. She built teams that had goals. Part of that was bringing jobs to Knoxville. She was the chief negotiator that brought a $50 million dollar 4 year contract to the Scripps Network. The NFL was never on cable, but with her involvement, the NFL came to ESPN as part of a Sunday night package. She had to travel the Midwest and convince firms to bring accounts into the ESPN package. She talked about her involvement in the Knox County School Boards massive countywide high school rezoning to populate the new Hardin Valley High School. “When I was dissatisfied with the rezoning, I got with several individuals and we hosted weekly meetings to attempt to provide solutions to the School Board. Following that rezoning, I worked with several individuals and started the blog School Matters, it is the only blog on KnoxNews that is administered by private citizens.”
Commissioner R. Larry Smith in a self serving manner offered her a job with his company by asking “Can you sell insurance? “ She is applying for the position of Commissioner, R. Larry.
Commissioner Mark Harmon asked is our decision an advantage or disadvantage to a candidate? Treacy said. Just because a Republican gets a lot of Republican votes doesn’t mean that independents and interested citizens do not want to see the process go forward. Harmon asked about land use? Treacy said It is killing me to see the land views that I grew to love when I moved here, dotted with homes everywhere.
Commissioner Tony Norman having been awakened by his Briggs moot point statement said “Amen to your land use views, several of us would welcome that view.” He then asked “How did your rezoning turn out?” Treacy said “It was negative” She said several of us have had a difficult time with School Board and Administration. Treacy said the school board appears to just go through their checklist and does not involve itself with the visioning thing.
Commissioner Paul Pinkston said “You would be on the body that sets property rates. Would you be there to go along and get along? Treacy said that I have the respect for all involved. In my business career, I put my career and put my job on the line everyday.
Commissioner Mike Hammond asked if she supported a new elementary school or expand current schools to reduce overcrowding? Treacy said “I would like to have classroom reductions become the solution.” She said “budgets are not a once a year issue.”
Commissioner R. Larry Smith asked if she had any conflicts. She said not that she was aware of.
Commissioner Craig Leuthold asked what she thought about TIF’s. Treacy said “Randy Neal had recently posted some interesting stuff about TIF’s and the BEP on KnoxVues.” Leuthold asked. What is the biggest concern of the 5th district? Treacy indicated that a lot of people have moved into the fifth district. Leuthold asked if appointed she would attend community meetings. Treacy said I am not running for office so I won’t be the person to run around and become known. Leuthold followed up with how will you find out what the district thinks on issues? Treacy said I am very internet savvy.
Commissioner Scott Moore asked Treacy you talk about team building. How do you go about doing that when the body is under court order not to have discussions outside a meeting? Treacy said “you could still have team building exercises provided that you invite the television stations.
That concluded the interviews and it was time for Public forum.
Wayne Sellars of Farragut spoke in favor of Richard Briggs.
A lady came to the microphone and voiced her support for Pamela Treacy.
Don Sproles was next. He said “I am the independent candidate that will be on the August 7, 2008 General election ballot” Everybody looked at Commissioner Tony Norman and he looked stunned. Sproles went on to say “I am not seeking the appointment. I am asking that you appoint a neutral placeholder for this vacancy.” Sproles said if you want to play a numbers game, there was no Democrat candidate running in the Fifth District, so if you took Ken Irvine’s 4,600 votes from the fifth district then Dr. Briggs only received 28% of the fifth district votes. If you compare campaign contributions and you remove a candidates personal contributions and Pac contributions then collectively the candidates in the Republican primary raised $3,200.00 while I have currently raised $7,800.00 Sproles stated that he is married to wife Karen, they have two children. He is an attorney by education and training. However, he left the active practice of law, in order to assist in the operation of the family business of his and Karen’s which is the popular, iconic and successful Lunchbox restaurants. He indicated that he has been active with Volunteer Ministry and Habitat for Humanity. He concluded by asking the Commissioner’s to “Let the voters of the fifth district decide who will be their next elected Commissioner.” Select an independent neutral appointee for the interim position.
Commissioner Tony Norman asked “Why are you an Independent?” Sproles said #1 I am independent and #2 the Chancellor found factions within the Republican Party and I didn’t want to be put into one faction or another because I am not a part of any faction. He stated that he has voted Republican in every Republican primary since 1992. Sproles concluded “I am an independent thinker.”
Sproles voluntarily explained that in 1982 he voted for his law partner the late Juvenile Court Judge Carey Garrett. In 1988 he voted Democrat for his former law partner Richard Baumgartner. He said that since 1992, He has voted Republican.
R. Larry Smith vented about how he believes that being an independent is someone confused. Sproles said that he feels that local races should be non partisan like the Town of Farragut and the City of Knoxville. Sproles said that the Town of Farragut residents do not care if it is a Democrat or a Republican that fixes their roads. R. Larry looked like a possum in the middle of the road.
Commissioner Scott Moore asked what his position is on Abortion and Gun Control. Sproles said “I have the opportunity to vote on that in national elections.” Sproles emphasized his position as the Treasurer of the Episcopal Diocese.