A ‘mustang’ at Engineering and Public Works

Larry Van GuilderOur Town Leaders

The military services have a name for highly accomplished members like Steve Elliott: “mustang.”


In the service, a mustang is a high-ranking officer who has risen on merit from the lowest enlisted ranks. Mustangs are rare and valued for the knowledge they’ve gained through experience.

Steve Elliott has earned that title in Knox County’s Engineering and Public Works Department. Nearly 30 years ago he began his career with the county as a laborer on a paving crew.

Jim Snowden directs the department. Here’s what he had to say about Elliot:

“Steve Elliott is a 30-year employee of Knox County who started as a laborer, and through dedication and hard work has been promoted through the ranks and most recently promoted to development services director. This position oversees the following divisions with EPW: Building Codes, Fire Prevention, Stormwater and Land Development. Steve is an asset to our department and a success story for those that persevere and work hard. It would be nice to see him receive [acknowledgment] for his hard work.”

Elliott says he’s “settled” in his current position, but it’s hardly one that allows him to rest on his laurels. In a typical day, he reviews building permits, answers dozens of emails and responds to code questions.

In his spare time, Elliott oversees 15 employees who report to him, five building inspectors, five fire inspectors and five construction inspectors. Although the department will lose 22 employees including 11 from development services to Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ mandated furlough on May 8, the work must go on.

His greatest challenge? Elliott says it’s time management, and with the broad range of demands on his time, it’s easy to understand why.

When your roads are paved, stormwater is properly draining and buildings are constructed safely, think of Steve Elliott and the crews he works with. He’s truly earned distinction as a town leader.

Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for Knox TN Today.

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