Note: This story has been updated in response to a reader’s clarification.
When the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen convenes on Thursday evening, one of the first orders of business will be to swear in a new mayor.
Ron Williams, who served two years as alderman of the South Ward, will take the oath of office, along with Alderman Ron Pinchock and newly elected Alderman Scott Meyer. Williams won the mayor’s race in the August election, defeating Bob Markli, who was alderman for the North Ward.
Williams becomes the fourth elected mayor for Farragut, which incorporated in 1980. The late Mayor Ralph McGill resigned for health reason in June of this year, and Vice Mayor Pinchock took the helm until the election.
Williams grew up in Powell and Fountain City. He spent a number of years in Southern California managing a large manufacturing plant that produced aircraft and race engine parts. East Tennessee was always calling him home, says Williams, and he moved back to work as a tool sales engineer for Sunnen prior to retiring in 2015.
“My introduction to the workings of the town of Farragut was when Mayor McGill appointed me to the Board of Zoning Appeals,” says Williams. “That’s a great place to get started because you see an overview of the town, what the future might hold and where peoples’ interests lie.”
The Sugarwood resident has seen what can happen when government doesn’t do its job, he says. “In California, I lived in an area that was heavy with manufacturing companies. The city council there didn’t get a good grip on the relationships between the manufacturing businesses and the town, and it was not a good situation. That was the main reason I got involved in town politics: I wanted to help.”
That desire had a learning curve, says Williams. “When Mayor McGill appointed me to the Board of Zoning Appeals, he told me I would have to ‘go back to school,’ so to speak. And he was right. I had to learn a whole new language. I took every class offered by the National League of Cities on town budgets, roads, storm water – I even took a sink hole class!”
His desire for Farragut can be summed up with two words: “Smart growth.”
And he likes the direction set by his predecessors, he says. “We have a lot of things going on that will take us down the road we want to travel. There are things that need to be kept on track and kept going – like Union Road and the town center.”
There are bumps in that road that will have to be navigated, says Williams. “The Hall Tax from the state is quickly going away and will be completely gone in a few years. In 2017, we got just over $1.1 million from the Hall Tax, a good source of income for us.
“We have a ‘pay-as-we-go’ philosophy, driven by sales tax, and we don’t want a property tax. So, we have some challenges.”
Partnerships can help, and the town has some history of successful partnerships with both Knox County and the city of Knoxville, says Williams.
“We partnered with Knox County on the road in front of Costco and the library, and now with the usage of the church (the old Faith Lutheran).”
Other plans include continuing to work with developers to help offset costs when roads and parks need help to handle new subdivisions, says Williams. “And we are going to continue to work to fill our empty buildings to help the sales tax monies. The lease on the old Kroger building expires in about a year. We are also taking a good look at the whole Outlet Drive area on North Campbell Station Road.”
Despite the lingering reputation of Farragut being hard to work with for incoming businesses, Williams says the members of town government and the town staff make it easy for those who share the town’s vision.
“We had a period of time where some employees – people who had very little experience in the business world – made it difficult to get things done, but that time is long gone. The board is very business friendly. We have a lot going on, have a very hard-working town staff and a board that intends to listen to our citizens. I am excited about being mayor at this great time in our history.”