David Gillette was sitting in the front room of Unchained Bail Bonding talking about the Mechanicsville Homecoming. He kept being interrupted by a ringing telephone.
One call he took was from the Porta Potty woman who was wanted to find out where to put the Homecoming privy. He politely filled her in with the logistical details, said good-bye and went back to talking about the celebration.
“The telephone. It rings 24/7,” he said, apologetically. “Somebody in the community always needs something.”
Organizing a big, multi-event community celebration isn’t easy, but Gillette is all about community. And he clearly loves the unpaid position although he has plenty of other stuff to do. He’s been parade director for eight years.
“Every year I do something different,” he said.
The festivities will kick off on Friday, Aug. 31, with a pre-homecoming crusade sponsored by Eternal Life Harvest. There’ll be live music and an outdoor basketball court and games and prizes and inflatables and food.
The Homecoming parade will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, on University Avenue and Homecoming Day festivities will begin at 11 in and around Danny Mayfield Park.
Gillette, who served on the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Council for three years, is a busy man. He’s the chief fugitive recovery officer at Unchained, and made his first run for public office last year when he ran for City Council and finished a respectable third in a 13-candidate primary race.
In 2016, Gillette identified a need for affordable housing in East Knoxville and started rehabbing old houses, one at a time,
“I worked closely with KCDC and THDA, and I’d get a lease-purchase agreement, but a house, fix it up, move in and then sell it to low-income qualified families. It felt good to see a blighted neighborhood thriving again. We had our own Fourth of July Boomsday with barbeque and fireworks. It was really a good feeling.”
Earlier this year, Gillette opened a restaurant on Cherry Street that he named LaFetta’s, for his mother. He hired students from Austin-East’s building trades program to help with the remodeling and when he opened, he hired students from A-E’s culinary arts program to help run the place. It was a community project.
But he couldn’t get the cash flow right and cut his losses after six months.
“I always heard the talk that the restaurant business was hard,” he said. “And I did the best I could. It was just one of those things.”
For now, he’s enjoying his work with the bonding company and intends to keep volunteering.
“I’m going to run for office again,” he said. “I just haven’t decided what.”
Gillette said anyone with Homecoming questions can reach him at 865-356-1179.