The Halls Business and Professional Association hosted a candidate forum March 20, with 15 candidates and two candidate representatives in attendance. Past president Michelle Wilson moderated.
County Mayor: Republicans Brad Anders and Glenn Jacobs and Democrat Linda Haney spoke, while Republican Bob Thomas sent a representative.
Anders stressed economic development and enhancing opportunities for young people to learn skilled trades. Anders serves on Knox County Commission and works for the Knoxville Police Department.
Jacobs spoke as “a small business owner right here in Halls,” saying he will fight to keep taxes low while supporting parks, jobs and good schools. He is a wrestler, Kane, and owns both insurance and real estate businesses.
Haney said she will work with anyone. “We all want the same things. Good schools, infrastructure, jobs. We really believe in the same things, we just go about it in different ways. Compromise is what it takes to be the mayor.”
Sheriff: Republicans Lee Tramel and Tom Spangler had contrasting speeches, with Spangler discussing his background and qualifications. Tramel took on the opioid epidemic and jail overcrowding, saying he wants to find innovative ways to treat drug addicts and the mentally ill.
“We can find new ways to do it, but it takes a vision to do that. I assure you I have the vision to carry on the good work.”
County Commission at large: Republican contenders are Larsen Jay vs. Ronnie Rochelle, seeking Seat 10, and Justin Biggs vs. R. Larry Smith (Seat 11).
Biggs mentioned a recent article about conditions at Adrian Burnett Elementary School and the recent move of the Regal offices from Halls to downtown Knoxville. As a Halls resident, he wants to address these local issues. “We need some attention in the 7th District, not just certain areas of town, but everywhere,” he said.
Jay said he will look at the big picture for Knox County and bring “rational, thoughtful leadership” to the table. Rochelle gave an impassioned plea to end county debt. Smith, also a Halls resident, was not present.
Criminal Court Clerk: Mike Hammond is running for re-election unopposed. He cited several initiatives he’s used to help those in need, including having a YWCA advocate on hand to help domestic abuse survivors, Jobs Not Jail, and expungement court.
Register of Deeds: Nick McBride has worked in the office for 28 years, serving as chief deputy for the past eight. “My institutional knowledge and experience make me the most knowledgeable candidate,” he said. His primary opponent, Steve Hall, was not present.
Trustee: Ed Shouse, running for re-election unopposed, quoted a raft of figures from his office and cited his 20 years of banking experience.
Circuit Court Clerk: Tim Wheeler, a former funeral director, said he wants to run the office like you run a private business. His GOP primary opponents did not attend: Bo Bennett, Don Ridings, Scott Smith and Charlie Susano,
County Clerk: Sherry Witt kept her remarks short. “I understand what kind of officeholders you’re looking for,” she said. “You’re looking for someone with compassion.” Her opponent is state Rep. Roger Kane, who was in Nashville.
Republicans Charles Busler (commissioner from District 7) has no primary opponent and Patti Bounds (school board member) is running without opposition.
Red Nation Robotics
Two parent mentors from the Red Nation Robotics team based at Halls High School were on hand to receive a $500 donation from the Halls BPA. The team recently won a regional tournament that will launch them into the World Championships. The team is raising $20,000 for registration, travel, lodging and food.
“The kids have a chance to use all the gifts they have,” said mentor Lisa Depetro. “Our kids at Halls are rocking it. It’s just a really neat program that benefits the whole community.”
Tramel donated to the group before he left the forum and challenged the other candidates to do the same. To donate, visit the Red Nation Robotics website.