The Democratic Party’s 2018 nominee for Knox County mayor got her first glimpse of Knoxville from the back of a motorcycle more than 25 years ago.
Linda Haney and her husband, Dan, had rolled into town for a Honda Hoot. Linda, who started her working life as a beautician but quit that when she discovered she was allergic to just about every substance known to cosmetology, had built a small business selling eyewear to bikers at rallies all over the country. They crisscrossed the county, but she found herself thinking Knoxville seemed like a pretty nice place.
The Haneys have been married since 1966 and were living in Miami where Linda been a successful Realtor during the years of 17 percent interest rates. By the early ’90s, Dan was building swimming pools and Linda was running the associated swimming pool service company. They were considering moving closer to her hometown of Kankakee, Illinois, and had made some good friends in East Tennessee. After visiting here, they started checking around, and found that Knox County was a great location to build a home.
“Great moderate weather, good location, affordable land, a perfect place to build our dream home – we’re halfbacks,” she said.
So, in 1993 – the year of the snowstorm – they bought 21 acres on Long Hollow Road in Powell, moved into an older house on the property and commenced to build their new home. Dan drew up the plans and they did all the work themselves, with some help from Dan’s friends.
“My husband’s a woodworker and a cement mason. I’m a retired union laborer. We hired a couple of people to help us frame it, but we ended up completely finishing it, just he and I. I know how to climb a scaffold, how to pour concrete. We have this house because we built it ourselves. It’s a really neat house and we’ve enjoyed it for the last 18 years.”
Eventually, the Haneys went to a meet-up of the Knox County Democratic Party, which was then chaired by Jim Gray, who encouraged them to become active. And that, they did.
Linda served two years as chair, and has also been a precinct chair, a district representative and is still vice chair.
This year, she took a big leap and became a first-time candidate for public office. She said Dan is her biggest fan and supporter but won’t be taking an active role in the campaign. Just not his thing.
As mayor, Haney wants to apply the hard work, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that got her to Knoxville. She believes government should be an instrument for good, and she hopes to help her adopted home preserve the qualities that drew her here and move forward to fix what needs improving – like teachers’ and deputies’ salaries.
“I’m running because it’s time for someone to step up and challenge the party that’s been in control since before I can remember. It’s time for a different voice, and that’s our campaign slogan – ‘A bold voice for a new Knox County.’”
Haney doesn’t think her Republican opponent, small government libertarian Glenn Jacobs, will be willing to fight for more money for chronically underpaid public servants.
“Women are good leaders and I feel that I would be a good leader for the county. My opponent is a very nice man and has been very nice to me during the campaign. He’s a good family man, we’re both not from here, and we both have not run for public office before, but the similarities end there,” she said.
“As for ideologies, we’re completely different. He comes from a libertarian ideology, and libertarians believe the smaller the government, the better. He looks on government as a business – profit margin, bottom line, all those things. … I don’t believe that. I believe government has a purpose. He believes government should run efficiently, and I agree with that. Government is not a bad thing.”
Haney knows the odds she’s facing, but she plans to work hard and air issues that need to be discussed.
“This is my chosen home. Dan and I chose to be here, and I want to make it better.”