Knox County law director headlines March 3 ballot

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Four important Knox County offices will be filled March 3 in the Republican Primary. No Democratic candidates qualified for the countywide ballot, although someone might attempt nomination by write-in. Early voting starts Feb. 12.

Voters will select a law director, public defender, judge for Criminal Court Division II and property assessor.

Four candidates spoke Jan. 16 at the Powell Republican Club; four more will speak at the club’s Feb. 20 meeting. The Powell GOP meets at 7 p.m. at Shoney’s on Emory Road at I-75. Those eating dinner usually arrive at 6:30. Meetings are open to the public.

Speaking Thursday were candidates for law director, David Buuck and Cathy Quist Shanks.

Law Director Richard “Bud” Armstrong is term-limited after serving eight years. Buuck is his chief deputy, having served during Armstrong’s full tenure. Previously, Buuck was in private practice for 30 years, remembered by county residents as the attorney for Citizens for Home Rule, an organization that filed lawsuits to block involuntary annexation.

Buuck reminisced about his links to Powell, saying he practiced law for a time with the late Zane Daniel. He took flying lessons from Norman Mayes at the Powell Airport. He mentioned Snooks Scarbro, Pete DeBusk, and Bruce and Lillian Williams.

“We’ve done a wonderful job of defending (the) taxpayers (of Knox County),” Buuck said. The office reviews some 800 contracts annually, provides legal advice to elected officials and defends the county against lawsuits.

Buuck said he strongly favors an elected law director (rather than one appointed by the mayor or the county commission). “We’re independent now. Taxpayers are our clients.”

Cathy Quist Shanks was a staff attorney in the law director’s office under the late Richard Beeler. She was elected as clerk of Circuit, General Sessions and Juvenile courts in 1998 and served for 20 years, opting not to run in 2018.

Since then, Shanks has worked as a mediator.

“The law director should be a strategic partner with county officeholders,” she said. “They are the experts in their field.” As law director, she would work to build trust with the officeholders and then give advice. “Lawsuits cost money. The more we can streamline the process the better.”

She said her training in mediation will serve her well in the role of county law director.

Shanks grew up in Oak Ridge and has lived in Knox County since 1990. While working in the law director’s office she was assigned to the Board of Education, where she defended the board’s policy of zero tolerance on drug offenses. She also gained experience as a litigator on salary suits.

Both are graduates of the University of Tennessee College of Law.

Candidates for public defender, Rhonda Lee and Eric Lutton, are profiled in a separate story.

February speakers at the Powell Republican Club will be Tina Marshall and John Whitehead, candidates for property assessor, and Judge Kyle Hixson and Wesley Stone, candidates for judge of Criminal Court Division II.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of


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