Thursday, August 12, 2004


How's that for a title? :)

Well, Knoxville and Knox County politics are ugly, tricky things. Take a dollop of good-old-boy, stir in a snifter of downtown snobbery, a peck of hillbilly, a smattering of religious influence and mix in a large helping of money and you have Knox politics.

Oh, and you also get Mary Lou Horner. Gawd bless her.

But it's funny how tables can turn. Only a couple of years ago, Knox County Executive Mayor Mike Ragsdale was running unopposed - unopposed!! - for his position. Democrats couldn't muster anyone with enough, um, er, gumption to run against him and Republican Mike sailed into the job on the wings of eagles.

Today, the feathers have come of the wings a bit.

Thumbing through today's Metropulse, Ear to the Ground has this story that's circulating:
"A group of people upset about the wheel tax and the direction of county spending has begun to bombard the sheriff with e-mails asking him to “save” Knox County by running against County Mayor Mike Ragsdale."
I ask, where were these people two years ago when nobody ran against him for County Executive Mayor?

It's also typical of those under the, I mean who want to have influence in local politics to use the "sky is falling" tactic to enact change.

"OMILAWDY! A WHEEL TAX! WE'RE DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED! Garb the gerbils and head fer the basement, Martha, hit's a twister!"

I have really nothing against Ragsdale. I didn't know a whole lot about him before the election (why learn? He's unopposed!), but so far he's seemed a decent enough sort. He doesn't run with scissors, and plays well with others (Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam - a big change from the last 16 years). However, it's amusing that the people who are wanting to oust him from now didn't seem to be anywhere around when he was elected.

The wheel tax is unpopular, yes. It's probably unfair to those in lower income brackets. But is it the kind of thing to want to toss someone out of office? Hardly.

Now, that said, this kind of thing can't possibly help Ragsdale's image:

Harber throws his weight around Knox County (Frank Cagle, Metropulse 08/12/04)
"Tyler Harber is becoming a living legend in Knox County politics. The 23-year-old special assistant to County Mayor Mike Ragsdale has, in recent weeks, accused the most popular female officeholder in Knox County of throwing bitch fits, collected $42,000 from a campaign working “pro bono” and has threatened to shut down a restaurant owned by Mike Chase because they wouldn’t serve him another cocktail."
Also reported by Betty Bean at the Halls News, which I mentioned a few days ago, Young Master Harber has apparently been a bad boy lately...

A probation officer for the county and - according to him - a "special assistant" to the Mayor, his penchant for Goldschlagers caused a bit of an uproar at Copper Cellar. He threatened to get the waitress who cut him off fired, call the health department for a surprise inspection, shut the place down, and, um, possibly even breathe on them.

Never fear, once Sherrif Hutchison and County Executive Mayor Ragsdale caught wind of this fellow's shenanigans he was suspended for three days from his job. Yeah, that'll teach him.

All kidding aside, Harber is 23, owns some political consulting firm called "National Public Strategies", and worked on the campaigns for Ragsdale and some of colleagues such as Billy Stokes (who just got trounced in the State Senate primary to Jamie Hagood). This campaign work resulted in some conflict-of-interest accusations related to his county job.

I've read Frank Cagle's column above, those in the Halls News and also in the News Sentinel and I can't quite figure out how someone as young as 23 can accumulate this much influence and political responsibility. 23! When I was 23, I was a couple years out of college and still trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life.

Maybe he's smart, maybe he's got some good qualifications, maybe he just has great connections and influential friends. I don't know. But if his track record is any indication of his influence in Knox County government, it doesn't speak well for County Executive Mayor Ragsdale in who he chooses to run his (and his friends') campaigns.

Can you tell I hate the title County Mayor? I thought you could.

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