Cameron Brooks pursues equity for humans, canines

Frank CagleOur Town Leaders

Cameron Brooks is a man with eclectic interests. He sells real estate, he works to rescue homeless dogs, he’s been a political party chair and he is into his second stint as a Knox County election commissioner.

The Bristol native came to Knoxville to attend the University of Tennessee in 1996. When he graduated in 2001 he was a clerk at the school. He worked as a community organizer and got involved in the Living Wage movement for low-wage earners at UT. The effort led to the establishment of the United Campus Workers union. He worked with Democratic state Rep. Harry Tindell and Republican state Sen. Tim Burchett to secure wage increases for low-wage workers at UT.

Tindell appointed Brooks to the Knox County Election Commission in 2009. Brooks took a break to take a job in Maryland for a while but missed Knoxville and came back. He was again appointed to the commission in 2017, this time by state Rep. Rick Staples. The commission has three Republican appointees and two Democratic appointees.

He praises election administrator Cliff Rogers for conducting the office in a nonpartisan manner. Brooks said one improvement he would like to see is all early voting locations kept open until 8 p.m., but he acknowledges it’s difficult. “We have older workers and retirees running the polls, and it’s a burden on them to stay late. We need to train younger workers, and it’s a challenge to bring the next generation along to give us more options.

“We have people camping out at the polls to solicit voters (during early voting). It’s a waste of time. It would be better for them to identify people who haven’t voted and to go get them and bring them to the polls.”

Brooks served as vice-chair of the Knox County Democratic Party in 2013 to 2015 and chair from 2015 to 2017. He says he isn’t involved with the party as much these days. His main focus outside his job at Realty Executives Associates is the Go North Animal Transport organization.

Northern states have strict spay and neuter laws that cut down on the stray-dog population. The transport organization collects stray dogs from shelters in rural counties around Knoxville that would euthanize dogs because they do not have the facilities or programs to find homes for them. Go North takes these dogs and vans them north to states like Ohio and Michigan where there are shelters that can find them homes.

“We’ve saved 13,000 dogs since 2012,” he says. “We had a fundraiser with the Agrifeed Foundation last fall and raised almost $10,000.”

Brooks began a web page to write about what he considers unethical practices in the real estate profession, like funeral chasers or bait-and-switch scams. “People don’t trust real estate agents; I go out of my way to protect clients.” But he expanded his newsletter to write about his interests in dog rescues and politics. He has done Q&As with mayoral candidate Eddie Mannis, Mayor Madeline Rogero and civil rights veteran the Rev. Harold Middlebrook.

Brooks doesn’t just advocate for homeless dogs. He has rescued five homeless dogs over the years. He and his husband, Wes Knott, have been together since 2004 and were married in 2015. They have two rescued golden retrievers at present and mourned the loss of their German shepherd to cancer Super Bowl weekend. They live east of downtown near the Beck Cultural Center.

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