Tom Clabo is Knoxville director of engineering

Jay FitzDowntown, Our Town Leaders

Three veteran engineers with a combined 73 years of experience with the city of Knoxville are being promoted to top Engineering Department leadership roles.

  • Tom Clabo, the Engineering Department’s civil engineering chief since 2006, had been appointed by Mayor Indya Kincannon to serve as director of engineering. Clabo has been with the Engineering Department for 31 years.
  • Shawn Fitzpatrick, a 26-year city Engineering Department employee and currently a city engineering manager, will succeed Clabo as civil engineering chief.
  • Karen McKeehan, a 16-year city engineering employee, is being promoted from engineering manager to transportation engineering chief. McKeehan is the first woman to serve as an engineering division chief in the city’s history.

The promotions were prompted by Kincannon earlier this summer naming Engineering Director Harold Cannon to serve as chief economic development officer. The switch-over to the new roles will be completed by early September.

“This is a win-win for Knoxville residents and the city’s thriving business community,” Kincannon said. “Director Cannon will set his focus squarely on helping Knoxville develop, grow and prosper.

“And because our Engineering Department is so deep in talent and experience, Director Clabo and Chiefs Fitzpatrick and McKeehan will step up without missing a beat. All three are well-respected for their conscientiousness, discipline and problem-solving skills.”

Shawn Fitzpatrick

Clabo, a University of Tennessee College of Engineering graduate, said he joined the city in 1991 as an entry-level engineer and worked his way up.

“Serving as director is a culmination of a career in public service,” he said. “It’s always been important to me that city engineering projects get done right, that they benefit as many people as fully as possible, and that we be careful stewards of taxpayer dollars. The Engineering Department’s work makes a difference in our community.”

Fitzpatrick, who earned his civil engineering degree from Old Dominion, has been managing designs of city projects since 2005.

“It’s rewarding to make an impact and better the community,” he said. “But it’s also critical that we be cost-effective and responsibly spend taxpayer dollars.”

Karen McKeehan

McKeehan, who earned her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Tennessee Tech and a master’s degree in engineering at UT Knoxville, will oversee everything from traffic signals and street lights to pavement markings, parking meters and traffic-calming projects.

“Our job is to provide safe and efficient roadways while balancing everyone’s needs – motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists,” she said. “Transportation engineering serves the needs of all the citizens of the city by combining technical knowledge and creative thinking to plan, design, operate and maintain transportation systems to help build smart, safe and livable communities.”

The Engineering Department leadership team also includes deputy director Steve King and engineering planning chief Chris Howley.

 The city of Knoxville public information office contributed to this report.

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