Dr. Robert Overholt
Well, nobody seems to want to run for mayor this year, so we're drafting our own reluctant candidates. Here's why they don't want the job.
by Jesse Fox Mayshark
It's not the highest-paid job in public office. In Knox County, it's arguably not even the most powerful one. It's a post that, from the outside, seems to entail an endless series of ribbon-cuttings, ground-breakings, pothole-fillings, and meaningless proclamations ("Eat Your Beets Day," "Lyme Disease Awareness Week").
Still, there's something about "Mayor." It sounds important. It comes from the French maire, which comes from the Latin major, which means (no snickering, now) "greater." In contrast, titles like county executive, superintendent, and even sheriff (old English for "county administrative agent") seem pretty pedestrian. So it's no surprise that when people look around Knoxville critically, spotting one thing or another they think should be better, they tend to start sentences with, "If only the mayor would..."
As it happens, this is a good year for that sort of thinkinga mayoral election year. The official filing deadline for the race isn't until sometime in August, but the major contenders are already getting geared up. Incumbent Mayor Victor Ashe is set to run for a fourth and final term, which would make him the FDR of Knox politics (term limits passed in 1995 will keep any future mayors to a maximum of two terms). For months, his biggest potential obstacle looked like former State Sen. Bud Gilbert, but Gilbert announced a few weeks back that he won't run against Ashe. That leaves former Mayor Randy Tyreewho's been saying for a few months that he might take another crack at his old joband damn near no one else.
You'll hear a lot of explanations for the dearth of big-name contenders, most of them having to do with Ashe's perceived strength. His big-money backers seem willing to give him one more go-around, and most serious candidates probably figure it'll be easier to run in four years without an incumbent in the race. Still, such a small field definitely lacks something in election-year drama.
Fortunately, we here at Metro Pulse don't believe in constraining ourselves to reality except when absolutely necessary. So we decided to field our own slate of non-candidatespeople who aren't running for mayor but maybe could. We didn't have many criteria, apart from a degree of visibility (crucial in the media age) and some sort of demonstrated leadership abilities. What would they have to say, we wondered, about running the city we all know and love?