Western suburbs. Represented for the past 28 years by Jean Teague.
FRONT RUNNERS: Archie Ellis and Barbara Pelot
At first blush, the Second District race would appear to be a classic contest between developer and homeowner interest.
Ellis is vice president for marketing of Partners & Associates, the firm owned by Ron Watkins that developed Gettysvue and is the Watkins of Worsham Watkins International, whose massive downtown redevelopment plan poses the biggest set of issues facing city government at this time. The suave, 49-year-old Ellis is also friendly with many of the city's bigwigs and is believed to have their backing in his first foray into the political arena.
Pelot, by contrast, has been politically active since the 1960s on behalf of the West Hills Community Association. Indeed, enhancing that residential neighborhood and protecting it against commercial encroachment has been a big part of her life. Over the years, the silver-haired, 63-year-old Pelot has broadened her horizons through involvement in zoning and sector planning issues on a city-wide basis, and she also served on the charter commission that formulated the plan for city-county unification that failed in a 1996 referendum. But championing neighborhood interests has always been her shtick.
Appearances can be deceiving, however, and any attempt to stereotype these two candidates is superficial at best. "I love neighborhoods," Ellis insists, pointing out that he was "heavily involved in Town Hall East" when he lived in Holston Hills. Now, as a single parent of two sons residing in Sequoyah Hills, he served this year as president of the Sequoyah School PTA. He also stresses that his work at Partners & Associates doesn't involve commercial or subdivision development. Rather, he cultivates small colleges, which are the prime prospects for the firm's services as a turnkey developer of new academic facilities.
Conversely, Pelot stresses that, "I don't believe in black and white. I always do my best to see both sides of an issue, whereas I feel Jean and Carlene have been singular in their approach." She's an ardent supporter of downtown redevelopmentthough not necessarily the Worsham Watkins plan. As evidence she's not a NIMBY, she points out that when the city was casting about for a site for a new baseball stadium, she backed one on Middlebrook Pike adjacent to West Hills. "I was devastated when we lost our baseball team, and it breaks my heart to see downtown Knoxville as downtrodden as it is today," she says.
Ellis says he opted to run for City Council because, "I'm convinced that everyone needs to do some public service." But the sharp-tongued Pelot is poised to attack his doing so at this time.
"He's got a conflict of interest on the Worsham Watkins plan, and it's totally unacceptable for him to say he's going to recuse himself because then the citizens of the Second District won't have a voice on the most important issue facing the city at this time," she asserts.
To which Ellis retorts, "That's for the voters to decide."
DARK HORSE: Joe Bailey is a handsome, 43-year-old bachelor who spent much of his adult life in Washington, D.C. before moving back to his native Knoxville in 1998. Roles in the Reagan and Bush-the-elder administrations and campaigns attest to his political savvy. After Clinton took the White House, Bailey spent six years as a TVA government relations operative. While he won't characterize his role since going out on his own as that of a lobbyist, he walks and quacks like one.
For now, he has a maddening tendency to answer questions about his views with phrases like, "I'm in the process of talking to a lot of people and listening to their views." But far be it for this reporter to conclude that's not the politic thing for a relative newcomer to be saying at this early stage of his campaign. He's bought a house in Sequoyah Hills but his lack of roots in that neighborhood or any other will work against him. On the other hand, his family heritage should help. His father, Ed Bailey, is a former, long-time city councilman.
LONG SHOT: Sharon Byrd is a 58-year-old real estate agent who works in tandem with her homebuilder husband, Harold. After growing up in East Knox County, she's lived in the West Knoxville suburbs since 1974. But she has not been active in any neighborhood organizations. "There's just so much you can do," she says. Byrd says it would be premature to discuss any issues until she has formally announced her candidacy, but she says she definitely plans to run.
May 31, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 22
© 2001 Metro Pulse