Who puts “very active in the original defeat of the Midway Business Park Development” in his obituary?
Why William D. “Bill” Emmert, of course.
Bill died June 3 at age 80. Funeral services were Tuesday (6/5) at Bridges Funeral Home, and Bill’s body was interred in the Thorn Grove Cemetery, just minutes from his home and in the shadow of the Midway Business Park.
In the history of Knox County boondoggles, the Midway Business Park stands at the head of the line. It’s a story of shady property acquisition and heavy-handed commercial rezoning in a pastoral area where even subdivision homes have five-acre tracts.
Bill and Janie Emmert were shelling beans on their back deck the day reporter Larry Van Guilder and I visited them to discuss the business park. One of the best politicians in the county, Bill knew the fix was in. Once the land was bought, it was just a matter of time before the property would get developed. Never mind the lack of public utilities. Never mind the country roads, the disrupted neighborhood, the little cemetery or the sinkholes.
“We’ve got to increase our inventory of available land for business,” was the mantra. And on Knox County Commission, no one was more vocal in support of the project than Commissioner Brad Anders.
We won’t rehash it here, but the short version is the developable land kept shrinking while the development costs kept rising. And nobody’s beating down the door to buy land there and build. What a waste. And what an aggravation to the residents, many elderly, who expected to live out their lives minding their own business – not fighting their own government.
But here’s the thing.
Brad Anders lost the Republican Primary for Knox County mayor in May by 23 votes – of almost 50,000 cast. When I saw Bill’s obituary, I looked up the vote at Thorn Grove, where the Emmert family has led the GOP for the best part of a century.
Glenn Jacobs – 158 votes
Brad Anders – 99 votes
A candidate who loses by 23 votes is haunted by “what ifs.” Anders’ support for Midway helped him raise campaign contributions from the pro-growth crowd. But his 59-vote deficit at little Thorn Grove in deep East Knox County was double his margin of defeat. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.