Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones will be a credible candidate for county mayor, if he runs, and will keep Commissioner Bob Thomas and perhaps Glenn Jacobs, if he enters the race, busy. However, Jones will need to overcome the impression that he is only a sheriff.
Three previous sheriffs tried to transition to executive or legislative office in Knox County and failed. They were Archie Weaver for city mayor in 1965, Bernard Waggoner for state senator in 1974 and Tim Hutchison for county mayor in 2010. Democrats do not yet have a credible candidate, and the GOP primary in May 2018 will decide who the next county mayor will be.
The current controversy on high pay for UT administrators who return to teach as faculty could not come at a worse time for the university, as it suggests waste through inflated salaries that are not genuinely earned or deserved.
To retire as chancellor, president or provost and then earn 75 percent of your salary with no limit as to how long it lasts and no connection to duties, workload or ability seems fundamentally misplaced. It is not fiscally conservative. It is wasteful. UT is often asking for more money and telling the Legislature not to micromanage. This weakens their argument as the board of trustees allowed this to happen.
Newly designated University of Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie was not the unanimous choice of the six-member search committee, this writer has learned from sources who declined to be named. Peyton Manning and trustee Charlie Anderson voted for former coach Phil Fulmer, while Currie was the choice of the remaining four members. None are talking on the record.
The hire was a strong surprise. Manning did attend the Currie news conference Thursday in a show of unity.
State Sen. Doug Overbey, who is looking at a 2018 race for governor, says he “has strong reservations” on philosophical grounds over indexing the proposed gas tax increase without legislative action as recommended by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Indexing gas to the Consumer Price Index would place a gas tax increase on automatic pilot. This appears contrary to what most principled conservative lawmakers would favor in terms of voting each time a tax increases. It appears this provision will be dropped if the gas tax has a chance to pass.
The first week of February, I visited Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles east of Chile, which owns the island. It had been on my bucket list for years. Two other Knoxvillians who have previously visited Easter Island are Will Skelton, active greenways advocate and retired attorney, and Jeff Chapman, well respected director of the McClung Museum on the UT Knoxville campus.
Getting there is part of the adventure, as one flies to Santiago, the capital of Chile, overnight and then flies five hours west over the Pacific to the island, which is partway to Australia from Chile. There are daily flights to the island from Santiago. Otherwise, one goes by ship, and they are infrequent.
In the 1970s, Tom Jensen was an important person if you had business before the Legislature and lived in Knox County as he was the Republican leader of the House for eight of the 12 years he served (1966 to 1978).
Jensen led the effort for a truly independent Legislature. He helped change the way things were done in a Legislature where the annual salary was $1,800 a year in 1967 and there were no offices for the members.
Eddie Mannis, deputy to Mayor Madeline Rogero during her first 18 months in office, is seriously looking at running for mayor. He is the owner and founder of Prestige Cleaners and a strong supporter of veterans.
Mannis would be viable if he decides to run, but the primary is not until August 2019. He has lots of time to think it over.
Those who had worried that the first female chancellor at UTK, Beverly Davenport, would be serious about diversity can rest easy based on her appointments to the first significant committee she named – the search committee for the new athletic director to replace Dave Hart. She shredded diversity with her six appointments.
The six include only one woman and no African-Americans, but two male trustees and the brother of a third trustee who is the chair of the UT board. Two are neighbors who live three houses apart on Lyons View Pike in West Knoxville on either side of the neglected historic UT-owned Williams House. The woman is Donna Thomas, who works for Hart and will help choose the person she will be working for.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally turns 73 on Monday, Jan. 30. He represents part of Knox County and all of Anderson County in the state Senate. He is the first person to represent Knox County to be Senate speaker in over 100 years.
State Rep. Jimmy Matlock, who came close to winning the GOP speakership contest in Nashville over incumbent Beth Harwell, turns 58 on Feb. 5.