Lauren Rider got so aggravated by what she was hearing about herself last week that she called her best friend to vent.
“I asked her, ‘Can we go clean up a creek, or something?’”
Rider – who served four years as president of the Old North Knoxville Inc., two years as co-chair of the Broadway Corridor Task Force, two three-year terms on the Neighborhood Advisory Council, has restored four old houses and a commercial building and owns a resume that includes a long list of volunteer activities – has been preparing for at least two years to run for the District 4 City Council seat that incumbent Nick Della Volpe will vacate in December.
Questions about her party allegiance don’t sit well with Rider. Nor does the suggestion that she should defer to Harry Tindell and wait for an at-large seat to come open in 2019.
“Some people say I can’t win. Some people say I’m not a Democrat. Some people say I’m not a Republican. What I am is a candidate in a nonpartisan race, running because tons of people have asked me to run over the years. I’ve had a lot of officeholders and community members urging me to run for council year after year after year. I’m fresh and new to this and I’m sincere about it and don’t doubt for a minute that it’s difficult and not fun at times, but I have a great wealth of knowledge of how the city works,” she said.
Tindell, her only announced opponent, is a Democrat who started his political career by serving on the Knox County school board, spent 22 years in the General Assembly, was well-liked by his colleagues and was never seriously challenged for re-election. He’s amassing an impressive list of supporters, but so is Rider, a librarian at Pellissippi State’s Division Street campus, who moved to Knoxville 12 years ago when her husband, Steven, took a position as a neurologist at University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Rider is from the tiny town of Evans, Ga., near Augusta. Growing up in the country – “seven miles from the grocery store, seven miles from school, two and a half miles down a dirt road” – made her hanker for city life.
A small inheritance provided the means to help her attend Georgia State University in Atlanta, where she got her first taste of city life. She lived downtown, majored in exercise science and was president of the sports club council. She also worked full-time and spent her weekends racing bicycles, something she continued after graduation. After she got her degree, she moved to Indianapolis with her coaches and worked as a nanny to their children. It was there that she met Steven, a medical student. They moved to Knoxville when he finished his training.
While Tindell’s supporters tend to be Democrats, labor leaders and business people, Rider’s list of supporters is heavy on neighborhood stalwarts like Carlene Malone, Jamie Rowe, Ronnie Collins, Lynn Redmon and former state Rep. Gloria Johnson.
Rider said she won’t be outworked.
“There are both men and women, Rs and Ds and Independents who support me,” she said. “I have support from a broad base and from all walks of life, and it’s based on my experience and the work I have done. I’ve shoveled gravel in the basement of a blighted property in 100-degree weather, to the point of tears, by myself, with my two kids running around. I know zoning. I know neighborhood issues and I work to the point of blood, sweat and tears to do what is best for my community.”