Justin Biggs: Young man in a hurry

Larry Van GuilderEar to the Ground, Halls

Soul legend James Brown was said to be the hardest working man in show business; Justin Biggs just may be the hardest working office-seeker in East Tennessee.

Two years ago, almost to the day, we asked Halls resident Biggs what propelled him to victory over R. Larry Smith in the Republican primary contest for District 11.

“I outworked him,” was his answer, starting earlier and finishing later day after campaigning day.

Biggs currently serves as one of two at-large representatives on Knox County Commission. The countywide exposure he’s gained during his tenure helps in his quest to become the next Knox County Trustee, replacing term-limited Ed Shouse.

The 2022 primary election is less than four months away, but Biggs remains officially unopposed. That could change, but his approach to the campaign won’t, even as he cites the “overwhelming support” he’s encountering.

“I’m going to run like I’ve got five people running against me,” he says.

Biggs notes that he has worked every position in the trustee’s office in the past 15 years. He gratefully refers to “Mr. Shouse” as his mentor.

Shouse, Biggs says, has returned “accountability and stability” to an office that was rocked by scandal in the recent past. If elected, he intends to carry those principles forward.

He also plans to be “constituent focused.” One way to accomplish this is to rotate personnel from the Cedar Bluff satellite clerk’s office to other locations as needed during tax season.

Reflecting on his experience as a commissioner, Biggs said the “biggest challenge” often was communicating to voters that infrastructure development – including new and expanded schools – is necessary.

(There will always be disagreement about how tax dollars are spent, of course. As a welcome aside, Biggs said he doesn’t think a tax increase is necessary.)

The candidate’s message to voters, and his slogan, is that he is the “clear choice.” His experience in the office, bolstered by a term on Knox County Commission, makes a persuasive case.

At 38, Biggs projects more confidence than he did a brief two years ago. His enthusiasm for reaching his goal is as strong as ever.

In this overwhelmingly Republican county, it seems likely that only an unaccountable stumble by Biggs will prevent his election. In league with Commissioner Kyle Ward, he appeared to make such a stumble late in 2020 when he proposed stripping the Knox County Board of Health of its Covid-19 pandemic authority as the disease was raging.

In the end, the full commission voted 8-3 in favor of the proposal. Apparently, no harm, no foul where the candidate’s aspirations are concerned.

Ed Shouse has not endorsed Biggs. A meaningful omission?

Turns out it isn’t.

The current trustee said Biggs does a good job in the office. Shouse simply noted it’s his policy not to get involved in other people’s races.


In my story last week, “Collision ahead for Burchett, Jacobs?” I wrote, “Rep. Burchett has not returned our call for comment.”

Unfortunately, that statement was inadvertently misleading. It turns out that Rep. Burchett’s Washington office, closed for weather, did not receive my message.

Larry Van Guilder was an editor, reporter and regular columnist for KnoxTN Today until illness forced him to step down last year. He’s back.

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