When Glenn Jacobs walked into the courthouse to watch the election commission certify the 23-vote margin that made him the Republican Party’s nominee for Knox County mayor, he could feel the eyes on him, and he knew that people were afraid.
It wasn’t because he had to duck to get in the front door or because he looks like a bad guy in a James Bond movie, nor even because of his side job as professional wrestler Kane – grand master of the choke slam, boss of the squared circle.
Nope. It’s not the imposing physique and brute strength that scare county employees – it’s the ideas. It’s the small government, libertarian political philosophy that has made him an in-demand guest on conservative media over the past decade that’s got county employees job-scared.
He’s hoping to allay those fears.
“I heard the rumors: ‘Glenn’s going to fire people, cut everybody’s pay.’
“No. That’s not my intention at all. I would prefer to give people raises. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the county. They work really hard. I watched a crew of Parks and Rec guys digging a trench out at Concord Park. Ninety-five degrees outside and they’re digging a trench.
“Where we can find inefficiencies, great. But I don’t want it to have an effect on personnel and I don’t want people to be scared of me. I want Knox County to be the best place it can be. Government has to be transparent and leadership is built on trust.”
Another fear he’d like to set to rest is the worry over his relationship to conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jacobs said he made one appearance on Jones’ “Infowars” show before Jones started accusing the parents of murdered children and the survivors of school shootings as “crisis actors” looking to defraud the public and grab their guns.
“That’s why I haven’t gone back on his show since. Besides, I wasn’t on his show to talk about outlandish conspiracy theories, but mostly economic issues,” Jacobs said.
“By the same token, I tend to talk with most anyone, whether I agreed with their ideas or find them distasteful. I think that dialogue is important. But just because I was on a radio show, podcast, or newspaper interview doesn’t mean I endorse their viewpoint.”
If he wins the general election in August (and he says he’s not taking that for granted), Jacobs says people will discover that he’s not the human wrecking ball they fear he is.
“I have no intention of wholesale firings, but I know how rumors get started. What I would really like to happen if I am fortunate enough to be elected is that people won’t even notice – just go on with their day-to-day lives.
“My general election opponent (Democratic nominee Linda Haney) put it exactly right: We all want the same stuff – stable communities, good schools. The motto of my campaign is, ‘Together we win,’ and I mean that. I believe in listening. People who come from different points of view bring up valid issues that need to be talked about. They might not always agree with my solution, but they deserve a fair hearing.”
He wishes commentators would quit comparing him to Jesse Ventura, who became the most famous wrestler/politician in the country by getting himself elected governor of Minnesota. While there’s little daylight between Ventura’s political persona and his wrestling persona, there’s a world of difference between the polite, soft-spoken Glenn Thomas Jacobs (who sipped a mug of hot tea during this interview) and Kane.
“The funniest thing is that people think I’m this big intimidating guy. But I don’t see myself that way. I’m just me. I am an extremely introverted person and I forget how big I am because I was always big. In my formative years, I was very tall and awkward. My classmates made fun of me. In my business (Jacobs and his wife, Crystal, have an insurance agency) we have an anti-bullying program. I understand what it’s like not to be one of the popular kids. That’s something that’s really close to my heart. I look at what kids nowadays have to go through, and I don’t know if I could have made it in those circumstances.”
He’s surprised that anyone is surprised that he came out on top of the three-way GOP contest because he never considered himself an underdog.
“I expected to win all along. I wouldn’t have run if I didn’t think I was going to win. I knew we had a good plan, and we executed it.”
Jacobs says he keeps his circle of close friends and advisors small. He credits his campaign manager Bryan Hair, who ran Bob Corker’s Knox County campaign in 2006, with coming up with a strong plan, the foundation of which was a strong ground game. In the process of executing the plan, Jacobs said his crew knocked on 50,000 doors. He estimates that he personally knocked on 2,500 of those, and he was one of the few candidates for any county office who talked about Black Wednesday, which exposed a nest of corruption and cronyism in county government in 2007. He believes 2018 has finally shut the door on that scandal.
“I think that episode is behind us,” he said. “But Thomas Jefferson said freedom requires eternal vigilance. He was talking about watching the government, and that’s always necessary. We, as citizens, have an obligation to make sure government remains transparent.”
Moving into general election season, he said he plans to continue driving the tiny Smart Car he folded himself into during the primary campaign.
Somebody asked me, ‘Is that going to become Knox County One’? I said no. It’s my wife’s car. She wants it back.”
He approves of incumbent Tim Burchett’s no-new-taxes budget, which the new mayor will inherit, and he’s glad that Burchett found the money to continue Project Grad and the magnet school program.
And he is careful to emphasize that he’s not overlooking his Democratic opponent.
“My opponent is a very fine, upstanding person who has always been more than cordial to me,” he said.