Every Friday, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs posts a recap of the week’s activities on Facebook. Mayor watchers invariably are greeted with Jacobs’ smiling face as he ticks off his completed itinerary.
“That’s just for the camera,” Jacobs said of his beaming countenance.
Don’t believe it. A moment later he confessed he’s “having a blast” one year into his term. Yet beneath the “hail fellow, well met” politician who trots from schools to “eat n’ greets” to employee luncheons resides a serious man and a serious mayor with serious ideas.
For example: “We want to develop a community master plan,” the mayor said. What form this may take is not yet known, but an amendment to the Knox County Growth Policy Plan mandated by the General Assembly’s passage in 1998 of the Growth Policy Act may come into play.
Currently, a zoning or boundary change for a rural area requires the approval of county commission, city council and the town of Farragut. These approvals are in addition to creating a committee and holding public forums.
As a county policy paper prepared for deliberation notes, requiring municipal legislative bodies to approve “land use decisions not included in their borders is quite unusual.” Jacobs is pushing an amendment to the plan that would do away the requirement with Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero’s endorsement.
Jacobs said there was “no low-hanging fruit” when he took office. While not every taxpayer would agree with the mayor’s assessment, it can certainly be construed as a positive take on improvements in county government; some bad actors and bad practices have been purged over time. That’s not to say opportunities to move forward don’t exist in abundance, and Jacobs recognizes this.
“By next year we will have at least broken ground on a building trades training school,” he said.
Ask any contractor if this is a wise use of taxpayer dollars and you’ll probably get an emphatic “yes” in response. The shortage of skilled electricians, carpenters, plumbers and HVAC workers will only get worse unless schools such as Jacobs plans become a common fixture in communities.
The mayor also wants to focus on what he calls the “substance abuse epidemic.” An effective program “will have a profound effect on jail overcrowding,” he said.
Jacobs plans to make safety improvements on some greenways, and his office is working with TDOT on “various mobility studies.”
The 52-year-old mayor has brought the same energy to his role as mayor that earned him success as “Kane” in the professional wrestling ring. A staunchly conservative Republican, Jacobs is unlikely to propose a tax increase, which can only enhance his popularity in equally conservative Knox County.
His toughest fights may arise with county commission, as they did last October in the kerfuffle over the Uniformed Officers Pension Plan. But the English major’s erudition and persuasion skills should make Kane’s patented “chokeslam” unnecessary.
Larry Van Guilder is the business and government editor for KnoxTNToday.