‘Ask for Tim’

Shannon CareyFeature, Halls

Let’s skip to the end of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s speech to the Halls Business and Professional Association last Tuesday.

“If you need anything, 215-2005. Ask for Tim,” he said.

I’ve heard Burchett speak more times than you can shake a stick at, starting before he was mayor, back when he was a state senator. Even though he’s nearing the end of his eight years in office and seeking election to Congress, his talks haven’t changed a bit.

Here are some numbers, but he won’t bore you with them. Here are some things he’s doing, things he’s working on. Here’s a heartwarming anecdote about his parents.

And here’s his phone number in case you need something done.

If he gets elected to Congress, I sure hope he keeps that part in his talks.

This time, he addressed issues Halls folks have been talking about. Plans for streetlights at Maynardville Highway and Norris Freeway have been drafted and approved, but KUB and TDOT haven’t decided what type of light to install, he said. And Clayton Park is probably too small for a dog park.

For the aging Adrian Burnett Elementary School, Burchett said there’s no “silver bullet,” and he’s waiting for Knox County Schools to add a solution to their capital plan.

“For the last eight years, we’ve worked really hard to restore trust,” he said. “We’ve reduced county debt by $50 million since I took office, worked to increase transparency and post more records online.”

Former HBPA president Carl Tindell asked what all that county debt is, anyway. Burchett said it was a “spending spree” by past administrations, building libraries, senior centers and new schools.

“I just hate that interest,” he said. “Every year we pay in interest about what we could build a new school for. I hope the next mayor will continue to pay it down.”

Burchett wrapped things up with his support of a stabilization unit, also known as the Safety Center for Knox County Sheriff’s Office, a place for mentally ill people to receive treatment instead of joining a jail’s general population. Back in his state senator days, an old friend of Burchett’s was in need of those services.

“If he hadn’t had the professional interaction with the Sheriff’s Office, he would have been dead or out on the street,” Burchett said. “We have mentally ill folks who are not criminals who will be able to get treatment and not go into our jail population.

“We’re going to do a little better.”

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