Knox County government: Who’s in charge and does it matter?

Frank CagleFeature, Frank Talk

There appears to be no provision for an acting county mayor either in the Knox County charter or in state law, according to the county law department. So? Well, say the mayor is someplace like Australia for an extended amount of time. Or, even incapacitated by a turnbuckle concussion. Or, say the county mayor goes on a world tour. Who’s temporarily in charge of county government? Well, nobody.


In the city of Knoxville there is a vice-mayor elected by fellow city council members to step up to serve. But under county government the mayor is not a member of county commission and there is no provision for the commission chair to step in.

A couple of observations. Knox County could propose a charter change to let people vote to create a succession plan. On the other hand, if it’s never been a problem why bother? That brings up the question of just what the county mayor does. There are elected constitutional officers to handle most things. The sheriff runs law enforcement. Elected officials collect property taxes, register the deeds, appraise the property, sell licenses and car tags and collect the wheel tax. The county mayor isn’t even required to attend county commission meetings.

The primary job of the county mayor is to prepare a budget, borrow money and sign paperwork. The county mayor has department heads to run things day-to-day. The requirements for the mayor’s job do not really constitute a full-time position. It provides plenty of free time to, well, run for congress, like the recent occupant, Tim Burchett. Or the one before that, Mike Ragsdale, who considered a run for governor until he got run over by a wheel tax.

So present county mayor and wrestler Glenn Jacobs should be able to find the time to body slam various opponents in venues around the world, like Australia. Perhaps he can call them “sister cities” like Knoxville mayors have done and travel there with senior staff.

Election update: U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen says he won’t vote for Chuck Schumer as Democratic leader but he would have voted for Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. It appears that Bredesen is continuing to reach out to Republicans and independents.

One wonders if such positions will cost him votes among Democrats. I doubt it. The Democrats are badly in need of a win in Tennessee and the national party needs another U.S. Senate seat. Bredesen is the only Democrat elected statewide since the days of Ned McWherter and Al Gore in the early 1990s. So I suspect he will be forgiven for not toeing the party line. After all, he won’t really have to cast a vote on the Kavanaugh nomination and Schumer will have enough votes in the Democratic caucus without Bredesen. So, both positions are meaningless as a practical matter.

But Senate Democrats have done more to hurt Bredesen’s campaign than Marsha Blackburn’s ads. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that during the turmoil over the Kavanaugh nomination Blackburn picked up in the polling and got beyond the margin of error. That prompted Bredesen to announce he was for Kavanaugh. President Trump’s visit to the Tri-Cities on Blackburn’s behalf likely solidified some East Tennessee support. The question is whether Republican outrage continues for four weeks, since Kavanaugh won. Or will Democratic anger over Kavanaugh outlast the nomination vote and fire up the Democrats?

That may be the key to the election.

How long oh Lord? It’s been 27 years since all those white men on the Judiciary Committee grilled Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation fight and disrespected her. It is credited with tripling the number of women in the U.S. Senate the next year. So we come to 2018 and the stupid Republicans still haven’t learned. Eleven Republican white men on the Judiciary Committee were faced with grilling a woman who says she was sexually assaulted. Are there no Republican women in the Senate capable of serving on that committee? How ridiculous did it look to have a woman prosecutor brought in to provide them with cover? And do they think this issue won’t ever come up again? Really?

Thin-skinned: Boy, why did Judge Brett Kavanaugh get so upset? He was merely called a lying, evil, drunken, gang raping, sexual predator. Given the “Animal House” atmosphere of this entire proceeding, why didn’t Kavanaugh just say “please sir, may I have another?”

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