Tonight, Matt Shears will announce that he plans to step down as Knox County Democratic Party chair at the end of November. The vacancy will elevate vice chair C.J. Butcher to the position of interim chair.
Shears and his family will be moving back to his native North Carolina. He says he’s sad to leave Knoxville but is confident that he’ll be leaving the Democratic Party in better shape than he found it when he took the helm nearly four years ago. Shears said he has great confidence in Butcher, who is an experienced party organizer and a native East Tennessean.
“I encourage the board to appoint him full chair as soon as possible. C.J. has the skills, experience and energy to lead our party forward. Truth be told, he has more campaign experience than I do – having worked for the KY Democratic Party, Governor Andy Beshear, a presidential & US Senate campaign, and more. I am very excited to see him lead our party and bring a new skillset and new ideas. He’ll do great.
“The party is the healthiest it’s been in decades – we’ve got money in the bank, candidates on the ballot and volunteers ready to knock on doors,” he said. “We’ll probably have nearly $100 thousand in the bank, tons of young staff and a whole team of young, trained political organizers.”
Shears came to Knoxville 11 years ago to attend Johnson University. He and his wife, Lauren Surber, have bought a 30-acre tobacco farm in Stokesdale, North Carolina, that once belonged to his great-grandfather and has been in his family for 250 years. They plan to sell their home in Parkridge and hope to complete the move in January. This will bring them closer to family and allow their two-year-old son, Henry, to grow up minutes away from his grandparents and cousins. Stokesdale is in the Triad area between Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to local Democrats announcing his decision:
“The past three and a half years as chair of the party have been an absolute joy. If you are reading this letter, you have impacted my life and I hope I have impacted yours. As a team, we’ve raised over $350,000, flipped seats every cycle, recruited the most candidates in years, knocked more doors than ever, and stood up for our values. It’s not a matter of IF Knox County flips blue, it is a matter of WHEN. I wish I could stick around to be part of that but alas my path now diverges from yours. This party is a team of dedicated volunteers, generous donors, hardworking candidates, wise elders and energetic campaign staff. Y’all are the team that will carry us across the line to a blue Knox County.”