Bike vs. Edwards in West Knox school board race

Betty BeanKnox Scene, West Knoxville

District 4 school board candidate Katherine “Kat” Bike has maybe one-tenth the campaign kitty that her opponent has amassed, but she’s banking on fighting the money gap with what appears to be a bottomless reservoir of energy.


Don’t get me wrong: Will Edwards is no slug. He’s a well-respected tax attorney who is active in raising awareness and resources for autistic children. He’s not wearing out a lot of shoe leather on the campaign trail, but he enjoys the support of some of the biggest political donors in town; think Big Jim’s Rolodex (if you know, you know), which means that he is, of course, a Republican in a race for a formerly non-partisan office.

The GOP’s supermajority legislature decided that education wasn’t political enough last session.

Katherine Bike

Bike is a Democrat running in this mostly affluent, formerly solid Republican district that has been steadily turning purple in recent elections, so it is unclear whether the red/blue divide will be a factor. The current occupant of this seat, Virginia Babb, has found the increasingly bitter partisan divide not to her liking and declined to run for a second term.

Bike was born and raised in central Florida but moved to East Tennessee when her parents bought property in Hawkins County when she was a teenager. She graduated from Cherokee High School with dual enrollment college credits she’d earned at Walters State, got an associate degree in engineering and art in 2003 and was accepted into UT’s College of Architecture.

That, she said, opened her mind to options.

“The first thing they tell you in architecture school is that you’re going to work yourself to death,” which she quickly learned was not to her liking. She also learned that she didn’t want to do just that one thing for the rest of her life and started sampling other disciplines by taking classes in art, geography and journalism.

In 2008, the school of architecture, which had only used student workers prior to that time, hired her to revamp its technology capabilities, which were being strained because incoming students were required to have an iPad, a computer and a camera and know how to use them. It was Bike’s job to help integrate students with the new technology and to make sure programs were installed correctly. She worked with administrators and professors to put it all together, and was there until 2011, shortly before her daughter, Adeline, was born.

Her son, Tennessee, was born in 2014, and Bike switched to working at home. She also started volunteering at the Bird House in Fourth & Gill, where artists, musicians, professionals and politicos came together. This was an eye opener for Bike.

It was during this time that she bought a vacation rental in Gatlinburg and put it on Airbnb, which allowed her to devote much of her time to her son, whom she and her former husband were beginning to suspect was deaf. She was referred to Tennessee School for the Deaf, which determined that he wasn’t hearing impaired, but had a cognitive deficit that qualified him for services through Tennessee’s Early Intervention program.

“I had a supportive family that allowed me to take my son to everything that was needed, and I was available Monday through Friday during business hours. He had those services through age 3 and is healthy and thriving now. Bike and her husband put the kids in Montessori school, where they continued to thrive. In 2019, the children were enrolled at Sequoyah Hills Elementary School. This was a move that paid off, Bike said.

“We moved to Sequoyah Hills for the services. We also moved to a thousand-square-foot home to make this possible, and I am very appreciative and am truly wanting this for all the children. I am aware of my privilege.”

Meanwhile, the Gatlinburg cabin burnt down in the wildfires of 2016, which sent Bike back to work in technology. By 2018, she had become a trial technology specialist and founded the Trial and Litigation Company, which helps lawyers from Knoxville, the Tri-Cities, Chattanooga and Nashville present their cases. She is also a part-time mountain biking guide at Blackberry Farm, leading women’s mountain bike rides, teaching beginner classes and volunteering to lead co-ed mountain bike rides.

Bike says she’s good at helping people connect with one another, and busy as she is, she believes her skills are sorely needed on the school board. When she heard that Babb wasn’t running for re-election, she called state Rep. Gloria Johnson and had a three-hour lunch meeting. She asked, “Can I do this? This is something I want to do.”

Johnson responded, “Thank you for stepping up.”

So, she did, and she hit the ground running – filling all 67 of the signature lines on her petition and leading a team of volunteers that has helped her knock on more than 3,000 targeted doors. She is determined.

“All the kids of Knox County matter and are worth putting my energy into it.”

Learn more about Katherine Bike here.

Learn more about Will Edwards here.

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.

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