Sunday, September 4, 2011

One year in, Burchett says he delivered

Click here for today's story on Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett's first year in office. My editors gave me 60 inches. In newspaper terms, that's about half of an empty page. I wanted more. But, whatever.

Here are some of the quotes from the mayor that didn't make the story.

On the overall past year:

"I think we've accomplished a lot of things that we set out to do - transparency and restoring a great deal of trust back to Knox County. People worked really hard in this administration and I've enjoyed it immensely."

On the transition from a legislative body to the executive branch:

"There really wasn't any honeymoon. We immediately went to work, starting to implement things. I was used to dealing with the executive branch (as a member of the state House and Senate), so I knew the role from the other side."

On what he would do different:

He said early on he didn't meet regularly with commissioners and other public officials, but he's since changed that. He said he took it for granted that they were up-to-date on all the issues, but then realized that because a commissioner job is part-time and most have other jobs, then that's not always the case.

On whether he would change anything:

"I don't know if I'd change anything. We accomplished our major goals from putting together a budget and paying down the debt, and things that are important. They're not sexy and don't make headlines but that's what we do."

On the hardest part of the job:

“Having to tell friends that I can't find them work. I can't create a job and you have to go through the process. There's a set of procedures in place. I refuse to make this a good ol' boy system up here.

On the best part of the job:

"The people I work with – all of the departments."

On a campaign promise to improve education:

He said he thinks he has.

"I've given them the funding they've asked for. I meet regularly with them, I've visited numerous schools and I go to lunch with the kids – not the teachers and principals. I want to find out what's going on with the schools. You have to give them the funding to support"

On his battles with other elected officials:

"It's not my role to be a cheerleader for office holders. When I talked about a 'new direction' (during the campaign), I meant it. People are tired of the same old stuff."

On the fee office controversy:

"When we came to a disagreement with the fees office, we still accomplished everything we want to do. We just had to get our heads together and discuss it and that's what we did. We got the transparency we're looking for and they kept their autonomy."

On not filling an MPC position with someone from the south side of the city/county:

"I just looked for the best person that I think would fit the job. I wanted someone with a business background."

On his plan to not fund the area's "save the homeless initiative" because the campuses allow booze:

He said he did include the county's $50,000 in this year's budget to help with the office's transition.

"But I still stand by my original (statement). I'd revisit it with a new city mayor, but my position hasn't changed.

But, he added, he doesn't "want it to be one against the other."

On the safety center:

"I'm against it, although I never said I was publicly against it. It's a funding issue."

On the Midway Business Park:

Now this is the interesting one. Don't kid yourself: The administration wanted the business park. Note how members never took a stand one way or another for it. But, Burchett didn't like how the whole thing was handled.

"I inherited that. I think it was mishandled. I think there was a distaste in the public's mouth on what appeared to be an inside land deal with connected people. They had it three years and dropped it in my lap but the damage was already done. I think if you go out to the public and tell them what you'd like to do and get their ideas, then it goes a long way. Don't be disrespectful about it."

He then said: "I'd like to see something out there . . . and I don't want to see a bunch of apartments."

On the Ridgetop and Hillside Protection Plan:

"I'm a property rights person and I think ultimately we have good laws in place and the ultimate goal is enforcement."

On why he pushed so hard for Carter:

He said his father taught him to support the underdog and that's always stuck with him.

"I think the people out there have been misled and it's the right thing to do. I have a place in my heart for the underdog."

He also said he "got caught up a little in their enthusiasm," and liked how the East Knox County residents tend to stay to themselves, but thoroughly research an issue when it affects them. It was a great quote, but I don't have that part of my notes on me, and most people would probably read it the wrong way. It's all in the tone. But it was pretty funny what he said.

Burchett also pointed out that during his campaign he never promised to build a new school, but rather, he "would look into it."

On the Carter opponents:

"People don't like it because I ruffled some feather and I understand that. Or people are upset that I don't want to put us in 20 to 30 years of debt."


On the severance packages:

"It's been rehashed a 100 times. I established a no severance policy so the issue won't come up again. It was done by executive order."

On his attendance:

"I've been attending more meetings. You've seen me in there."

That's true.

On his next budget:

"It's all on the table. I caught a lot of heat because we didn't give raises and the county employees haven't had raises in four years. But, if you talk to some folks in the private sector, some of them haven't had raises in 6 years. If I can, I'd like to do it but not with a tax increase."

He also said that he's "not looking at a tax increase right now. My directors know to bring me other solutions. A tax increase is too easy."

On future concerns:

"It's always the budget."

But, he added: "I want to continue to restore confidence and transparency in county government and continue to provide services that we're constitutionally mandated to do."


This was from Commissioner Amy Broyles:

"I think local government works best when everyone is encouraged to participate, to bring their best ideas and collaborate with their colleagues. There has been a definite shift away from that in the past year, which I attribute to the current administration. I have been very disappointed in the adversarial rhetoric and lack of honest communication. Keeping a tally of ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ shifts one's focus from where it ought to be - on the citizens of Knox County.

“We have all worked very, very hard since the 2008 elections to restore the public's trust, and we have made great strides towards a more respectful, transparent, and responsive government. I think we have one of the most effective, most progressive legislative bodies in Knox County history. We work well together, and Mike Hammond has done an excellent job of keeping us focused and moving forward. He is sensitive to everyone's right to be heard - public figures and private citizens alike.

“Community organizations and other non-profits provide valuable services to the people of Knox County, and I am pleased to see the administration is acknowledging that by restoring some of the funding they cut. I think it shows sincere growth, and I am very proud of the Mayor. I also admire his willingness to consider out-of-the-box solutions to stubborn issues, and his perseverance. One on one, it is obvious he cares about people and wants to make a difference in their lives. I think he will continue to develop as he settles in and finds his balance as an executive. I look forward to that. Working together, the Commission and the administration have the potential to do some truly great things for Knox County over the next few years."

Commissioner Ed Shouse said the following:

"I think it's been a pretty good year for the mayor. Certainly, there's a learning curve from working the halls of the Legislative Plaza to the nuts and bolts of running a county with 450,000 people and a budget of $650 million. He's had some missteps but that's expected for anyone, but I'd certainly say it's been a good year.

"He followed through on his campaign promises to reduce government and no tax increases and run it as efficiently as he saw fit, and I think that's what he's attempting to do. I think that sometimes the communications can probably be improved upon but I believe he's gotten better at that in the last six months than he was in the first."

Knoxville Chamber President and CEO Mike Edwards said the following:

"I think he's had a successful first year. I've watch from the peripheral other mayors – city and county – in my tenure and the learning curve that first year is steep regardless of your background. And everybody that I could cite has come in with some degree of knowledge and there's always a learning curve, but I think he mastered it relatively quickly. I think he's been able to work with the commission, but they're not necessarily a rubber stamp. But he has been able to get important agenda items through, not the least of which was his budget, which was not easy."

Edwards added: "He also took home the Carter school deal. And he has not been afraid to take on a tough issue. He worked Carter extremely hard and had success. He's not done yet, but he has gotten it a pretty good ways down the road."

Edwards also said Burchett "made a very good stand with no tax increase and he kept public education No. 1. He kept (the school system) as a priority when there's a lot of pressure to go in a whole lot of different directions.

"I think he has maintained a high level of integrity. There's been no instances of impropriety. You can tell if a guy's heart is in the right direction, so I think he's had a great first year."

Register of Deeds Sherry Witt:

"I think he's had some great ideas and it's just implementing those great ideas. I hoped we helped with doing that. We sure tried to.”

She said the fee office debate "was a true compromise. It wasn't ever that I was trying to be a radical. But me being here as long as I have, I knew there were certain duties I couldn't give someone else.

"We look forward to working with him in the future."

Superintendent Jim McIntyre:

"From my perspective, the mayor has really always been a friend to public education going back to his years in the Legislature and I think that continues today. Part of his educational background was his parents – they were both educators – and I think he understands the importance of public education, and more particularly, high-quality public education for the future of our community.

"I think we've developed a good working relationship over the past year and I meet with him every other week. I think we've really worked to establish that working collaborative relationship around supporting the children in our community."

I asked him to characterize the mayor's approach to Carter Elementary School.

"It's really the same. I believe over the past year we've worked to build a collaborative relationship, and I think the mayor has tried to be creative in working through his interest and the Carter community's interest, and I think that he has tried to be respectful of the (school) board's authority . . . . One example is that early on the board of education had voted several times for renovations, and I think the mayor really listened to the board when they said if they were to consider a proposal for a new school it would have to come out of resources that wouldn't impact the school system. I think the mayor listened to that, took it back and really tried to respond."

He added: The good news is that he shares our priority in ensuring that we provide a great education to our children. He has really engaged with us. For example, over the last two weeks (McIntyre has been touring the schools), the mayor has been to probably eight or 10 of them with us and observed instructions with me. He generally seeks to be supportive of the work we've done. He cares for the children, he's good with kids and has a heart for public education, and I look forward to working with him."

Chief of Staff Dean Rice:

"I think it's been a great year. I've thoroughly enjoyed working for the mayor. I learned a lot and look forward to doing a lot more. My favorite part of the year was watching an elected official actually do what they said they were going to do. You may not win every time, but I think the people and the voters appreciate him and what he's trying to do, and I look forward to doing anything I can do to help him for as long as he wants."

Rice added: "If you look at what he's done coming into office this year, I think you'll continue to see a mayor who is pushing for those core things – more transparency, efficiency and fiscal responsibility. They may be broad things, but they have real consequences as far as policy goes."

He also said: I truly enjoy working with a lot of talented people and getting to know many of the county employees who get to do a tremendous job for the taxpayers."

Communications Manager Michael "Big Sexy" Grider said:

"Huh, what? What are you asking me for? I just work here."


Yeah, I made up that last one.


Anonymous said...

He may have delivered, but the baby is kinda ugly.

Anonymous said...

huh? come on what about timbo's motorcycle club members that got work in the county AFTER he got in? Sure he ain't trying to hire his friend(s) with BWI-drug arrests like another politician in Knox County but for you to allow timbo off the hook is a joke.

Mike Donila said...

No, you know what's a joke? People who persist with the rumor that he hired his motorcycle pals; yet never have any proof, never have any names or departments where they work, etc.

Anonymous said...

Compared to where this County was, he has made great progress in his first year. Our debt has tripled in the last 8 years and he has us now heading in the right direction.

Great job Tim and Staff keep up the great job.

Anonymous said...

Very comprehensive report. Good job Mike.