Knox greenways have new driver

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Tim Hester, former city manager of Norris, has been hired as the new greenways coordinator for the city of Knoxville. He started to work this week.

Brian Hann, active chair of the city greenway commission, praised the choice, saying, “I look forward to seeing him in action.”

He replaces Lori Goerlich who left for Chattanooga after a lackluster four years in Knoxville. Hester will clearly be a positive upgrade in this office and greenways will be moving forward. His office will be at Lakeshore Park.

If U.S. Rep. Diane Black becomes the permanent chair of the House Budget Committee, will that impact her potential run for governor next year? She is the interim chair for now until Georgia Republican Tom Price is (presumably) confirmed to the Trump Cabinet as Health and Human Services secretary.

Paul Ryan chaired the budget committee before becoming House speaker. It is an important, demanding and time-consuming position. It is a sign of the respect the House leadership holds for her skills, which will be tested under President Donald Trump. Her office for now says it will not affect her decision on whether to enter the 2018 race for governor.

She is considered by many to be the leading candidate at this early stage in the contest and she can fund her own campaign if necessary.

Other potential candidates include Randy Boyd of Knoxville, state Sens. Mark Green, Mark Norris and Doug Overbey, and possibly House Speaker Beth Harwell.

Knox County officials are hopeful that Gov. Bill Haslam will include funding in his budget for the Knox Safety Center, which is being pushed by Mayor Tim Burchett and former district attorney Randy Nichols.

Money was not in last year’s state budget, but a behind-the-scenes effort has been made since then to secure funding. If not included, expect the Knox lawmakers to push funding by legislation. The governor has not announced his decision.

Wayne Christensen, 71, retired director of Knox Youth Sports, has decided to run for the West Knoxville city council seat now held by Vice Mayor Duane Grieve, who retires in December because of term limits. Christensen may be opposed by David Williams and Tim Hill.

Others mentioned include Bearden activist Terri Faulkner, West Hills sidewalk supporter Sandi Robinson, Knox County election commissioner Andrew Roberto, and former Democratic party vice chair Doug Veum. This could be a crowded field that triggers much interest.

Lois Riggins Ezzell, the 35-year director of the state museum, has been gone 18 days but only a few blocks away, where she secured an easy $40,000-a-year job as a fundraiser for the new museum building at age 77.

Interestingly, no one asked her to do this except herself. But the foundation board is in her pocket and they are happy to spend money citizens give for the museum to enhance her personal retirement on top of her state pension.

She attempted her last week in office to create an actual office for herself within the museum as the foundation actually does not have office space anywhere.

When museum commission chair Tom Smith discovered this last-minute maneuver, he placed a halt to it. This sequence of events is impossible to make up. It is also most unfortunate that some public employees do not realize when it is time to depart.

The museum commission is scheduled to meet next week, Jan. 24, to choose a permanent replacement.

Meanwhile the governor is trying to raise $40 million to pay for the new $160 million museum.

Birthdays: Chancellor Mike Moyers turns 56 on Jan. 19. Congratulations!

Marie Leonard, widow of Farragut’s first mayor, Bob Leonard, celebrated her 90th birthday last Saturday at the Farragut Town Hall.

Knoxville’s oldest living former mayor, Randy Tyree, turns 77 on Jan. 20. He was also the youngest person ever to be elected mayor in 1975 when at age 35 he was elected over the late Kyle Testerman.

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