Justin Biggs is commission’s one-person youth movement

Larry Van GuilderHalls, Our Town Leaders

The youngest member of the Knox County Commission is also one of its hardest workers. When Justin Biggs defeated former District 7 Commissioner R. Larry Smith in the 2018 Republican primary for the District 11 at-large seat, his success in the general election was all but assured in heavily Republican Knox County. Victory in the primary contest was far from a lock, however.

Biggs provides a simple explanation for what ended as a convincing victory over Smith: “I outworked him. If he started at 9, I started at 7. If he campaigned until 8, I didn’t quit until 10.” The result speaks for itself.

Thirty-six-year-old Biggs has spent 13 years in the Knox County Trustee’s office where he has excelled in the position of collections administrator, reducing the delinquent property roll by half. He and his wife, Heather, also own Tré Salon in West Knoxville.

Although he is a newcomer to elected office, Biggs’ time in the trustee’s office has more than acquainted him with the workings of county government. Having a father who spent years in the sheriff’s office (retired Chief Deputy Eddie Biggs) helps as well.

Biggs demonstrates that youth is not an impediment to forming strong opinions when he considers the plan to move school administration from the Andrew Johnson Building to the TVA tower. He is concerned that commissioners don’t have enough information to make an informed decision and he favors exploring other options such as Knoxville Center mall.

Biggs has an interesting take on the county’s relationship with the city. He isn’t calling for metro government in fact but notes that in some respects the county’s functions already mirror a metro setup.

Exhibit 1 is, of course, the county-administered school system, but there are less well-known examples of the county pulling its share and then some. For instance, Biggs says, the city has not held a delinquent tax sale since 2015.

City properties are “folded in” to the county’s tax sale “pro bono.” (The sharp cookie in city finance who brokered this arrangement likely received a raise.)

Biggs represents commission on the Tennessee Technology Corridor Development Authority. It’s an ideal appointment for someone with his enthusiasm for the future. He sees the growth of downtown Knoxville as an “engine” to power industrial development outside the city.

The commissioner says 2020 will be a “big year (and) I’m excited about the decade ahead.”

Knox County’s population will soon reach a half-million, Biggs said. The growth has been fueled by areas like Hardin Valley.

“We tried to four-lane Hardin Valley Road eight years ago. The residents didn’t want it,” he said. Attitudes have since changed.

The youthful commissioner made and will make an attractive candidate for office. Not surprisingly, he’s been approached to run for other offices. Whether in his current office or another, I think you’ll be hearing more from Justin Biggs.

Larry Van Guilder is the business/government editor for KnoxTNToday.

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