Northwest Knoxville. Represented for the past 12 years by Ivan Harmon.
FRONT RUNNERS: Bedford Chapman and Steve Hall
Unlike the Second District race, which could get ugly, the Third District figures to be contested more amicably between two 40-something men who are both on the comeback from serious health problems. Each speaks well of the other, and each is better spoken than the outgoing Harmon, who is a master of malapropisms.
Chapman's problem is that his voice is so hoarse it sometimes hurts to hear him talk. The hoarseness is a result of vocal chord cancer for which he had surgery a little over a year ago. Chapman insists the cancer has been eradicated and that his voice is gradually getting better. "I could only speak in a whisper six months ago," he says.
When he talks about representing his district with "honesty, integrity, responsiveness and awareness," it may sound platitudinous. But the round-faced, balding Chapman appears to have a reputation for all of the above in his lifelong home area of Norwood, which lies at the heart of the district. While he deals in real estate and espouses a "pro-growth" viewpoint, he's got impeccable credentials for community involvement, serving on the board of the Norwood Homeowners Association and as president of the Norwood Elementary School PTO. "I'm really hesitant on spot zoning," he says. "We need to be consistent with sector plans."
In making in his first bid for public office, Chapman may start out at a political disadvantage to Hall, who came within 38 votes three years ago of winning the Republican nomination for the seat in the state Legislature now held by the man who beat him, Steve Buttree. Since then Hall (who is no relation to the like-named Knox County registrar of deeds) encountered kidney problems necessitating a transplant that he insists has solved them.
While Chapman has deeper roots in the district, Hall may also have more of a city-wide perspective. His firm, Interior Finishes, has its offices and warehouse on Depot Street at a bridge point between downtown and East Knoxville.
"I'm very concerned about downtown redevelopment," he says. "I can't stand to see all those empty buildings." Of course, his firm could have a role in refilling them. His largest single customer, he says, is Goody's. "Wherever a new Goody's store goes up, we provide just about everything inside it."
Hall also hosts a weekly television show on the community cable channel. "While I'm a conservative on national and state issues, I look at local issues in a very different per-spective. Danny Mayfield was the most dynamic guest I ever had on my show, and his loss was tragic."
With his flat-top hairstyle, goatee, and beefy build, Hall also cuts a more imposing figure than Chapman. But Chapman may have some less visible advantages. Mayor Victor Ashe is reportedly backing him behind the scenes, and a loose-knit confederation of neighborhood associations, Community Forum, appears to be leaning his way as well. While he's more removed from it, downtown redevelopment is also a priority with Chapman.
LONG SHOT: Chapman and Hall have hopefully put their health problems behind them, but Melany Noltenius never will. Now age 36, she's been legally blind since she was 20, a consequence of childhood-onset diabetes and complications of pregnancy with her now 16-year-old daughter. She says she can see up to two feet in front of her, nothing beyond that.
But vision impairment hasn't kept her from scrutinizing city government. As a telecommuting webmistress for About.com she maintains a community events calendar on its website that includes City Council agendas. She also watches every Council meeting on TV, and of late she hasn't liked some things she's seen. "All those finger annexations really bothered me and the lack of any master planning. But it was the Melissa Mayfield thing that really pushed me over the edge."
The day after Council denied Mayfield the seat held by her late husband, Noltenius decided to run herself. "I know I can't compete with Chapman and Hall financially, but I'm going to try to outwork them," she says. Using city buses to make the rounds from her home in Westavia Woods near Bearden Middle School, she's already campaigning door-to-door about four hours a day throughout the district. Her basic theme: "Letting the people have a voice." Needless to say, she also has a lot of ideas about improving public transportation.
May 31, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 22
© 2001 Metro Pulse