Change ahead for Knox County Commission

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

Updated at 4:27 p.m. Randy Smith defeated John Schoonmaker 7-4 to be elected chair of Knox County Commission. Smith got his vote plus Evelyn Gill, Michele Carringer, Hugh Nystrom, Brad Anders, Charles Busler and Dave Wright — leaving Schoonmaker with his vote plus Bob Thomas, Ed Brantley and Carson Dailey.

Charles Busler was elected vice chair 6-5 over Michele Carringer. Busler had his vote plus those of Schoonmaker, Dailey, Thomas, Brantley and Wright. Carringer had her vote plus those of Gill, Anders, Smith and Nystrom. 


Who will get six votes – Randy Smith, John Schoonmaker, Charles Busler or someone yet unknown?

Knox County Commission will convene today – 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18 – to reorganize. Vice chair Randy Smith, as reported here a couple of weeks ago, is seeking to move up. Dave Wright won’t seek re-election as chair, opting instead to run for state representative next year to replace retiring Harry Brooks in District 19.

Smith, from District 3, which includes parts of the West and Karns High zones, is soft-spoken and not known for meeting-lengthening rants. He works in risk management for Knox County, reporting to HR director Mark Jones. And while no one has complained about a conflict of interests during Smith’s tenure as a commissioner, Schoonmaker says his employment blurs the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of county government. “Randy could be fired by the mayor.”

The usually gregarious Busler, on the other hand, is mum. His name came up as a possibility for vice chair during the controversial ambulance contract vote in August. Busler was on the losing side of a 7-4 vote and later was identified as having played golf just days before the vote with an official of Priority Ambulance Service. Busler said he will read a statement before Monday’s meeting.

Randy Smith says he’s known Tim Burchett for 30 years. “We talked (before Smith ran for the commission) and I told him I would represent my district first. He understood.” Smith noted that he voted against Burchett’s plan to locate a behavioral urgent care center in a residential section of his district. (Smith lost.)

Schoonmaker, a first-term commissioner from Farragut, says he decided to run for the leadership post because he’s got time for the job. He said presiding at meetings is about one-third of the chair’s duties. The major role is representing the commission at business and community events.

Late Friday, we heard that Michele Carringer may stand for vice chair with Smith, creating a formidable alliance. Stir in a dollop of Brad Anders vs. Bob Thomas for county mayor and the appointments for committee chairs and membership on The Development Corporation board and you’ve got the makings of a meeting worth watching. It’s live on Comcast Channel 12 at 4 p.m.

Pushback on GOP rules change: Legislators are unhappy with the Republican State Executive Committee’s new rule to let the state party chair determine “bona fide” Republicans to allow on a primary ballot. State Sen. Richard Briggs spoke against it at a recent GOP club meeting. This pot will boil over at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2, at the Hampton Inn, 5411 Pratt Road in Norwood, when Golden comes to clarify the new rule. The invitation says: “All clarifications will be final and (Scott) Golden will work to make this as clear as possible.”

Cue up the theme from “Jaws.” Just when you thought the Legislature was settling down to business, here comes the rumor that former state Rep. and Sen. Stacey Campfield may be a candidate in District 89 next year – the seat being vacated by Rep. Roger Kane, who is running for Knox County clerk. Campfield served from 2005-14 until his defeat by Sen. Briggs.

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