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Johns seeks to unseat mayor

The ballot for Farragut’s April 5 municipal elections was set as of last Thursday — the candidates’ deadline for turning their paperwork into the Knox County Election Commission.

In his bid for mayor, businessman Bill Johns is looking to “bring some new blood into the leadership” of a town at a “fork in the road.” He’s begun campaigning to defeat three-term incumbent Mayor Eddy Ford. Ford and Johns are the only mayoral candidates.

Johns is the president of Bluewater Consulting, a national strategic technology, management, supply chain and marketing consulting firm operated out of his home. Margaret, his wife of almost 13 years, is a worldwide marketing manager for a technology firm.

The couple has lived in Knox County for seven years and in Farragut for the last five. Johns grew up in Germantown and, because of similarities, he said Farragut should benchmark the prestigious West Tennessee city, where he worked in its parks and recreation and planning departments. He holds a master’s degree in business administration, a master’s of public administration and a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and political science. He said his focus of studies have included supply chain management, technology, global business, strategic management, public administration, city planning, criminal justice, history and political science.

Johns’ work experience also includes marketing and brand management for Ducks Unlimited, a wetland conservation group; managing operations at Baxter Healthcare, a healthcare-efficient consumer response center; developing supply chain strategies at General Motors; and at i2 Technologies, an eBusiness software company. There he served as director of the Logistics Strategic Opportunity Assessment group, providing consulting solutions globally. His clients included UPS, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Toyota and Johnson & Johnson.

It was when Johns was an MBA student at the University of Tennessee that he visited the Farragut area, and after spending years on the road, he and his wife decided to settle down in Farragut.

“We weren’t transferred here, it was our choice and this is the place we call home and this is the place where we’re gonna retire, and that’s why it’s so important to us to find the time to get involved in the community.”

Johns developed a list of what he believes are Farragut’s “critical needs,” many stem from Johns’ background in business and strategies he’s seen in municipalities throughout the country.

• Provide a community vision and strategic plan/Develop and promote a community brand for Farragut.

Johns was on the branding team for the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, the brand of the five-year Jobs Now! Initiative started in early 2003 in part to create jobs and generate revenue by encouraging companies looking to expand into the region. The program is targeting industries in the manufacturing, technology and corporate office operations categories. Johns is a proponent of the program and believes Farragut should be involved.

“Farragut has a role to play,” he said about the growth that is coming to the region.

“Having a land use plan, having a capital improvements plan is not a strategic plan,” Johns added. “We’ve got to build a brand for our community as other communities have.”

The same strategies used in marketing Jobs Now! to new businesses, he said, should be used to grow Farragut’s business district.

• Promote and support economic development/strengthen business merchants and the Chamber of commerce/main-tain low/no taxes and maintain town’s financial well-being.

Johns commended how the town has grown. But it’s not necessarily been “smart growth,” he said. “When roads are put in, when neighborhoods are put in, etc. we can’t go back and erase and start over. … The current board, including the mayor have done a very good job,” but he added, “there’s a lot of things that have changed since the nineteen eighties perspective in how you grow a community.”

As for business growth: “There’s no reason why our business merchants should not be flourishing. Right now we’re in a reactive mode of trying to prevent additional losses … which is our tax base.”

Johns supports not having a property tax; instead “keeping a healthy business district.” He’s concerned about Farragut’s first impression, especially with “businesses boarded up” along Kingston Pike. He believes in strict ordinances and again points to Germantown.

“Even with all (the city’s) restrictions, the businesses are doing well, the community is supporting them, the town works with them.” Businesses such as Gap, Laura Ashley, Banana Republic and the Apple Store, he said, “are willing to compromise their traditional looks to be a part of these communities because it has a strong community vision and a strong community brand. And more importantly, the community works together.”

• Strengthen neighborhoods and homeowners associations

/more citizen input/cooperate and collaborate with citizens, organizations and regional players.

A past president of the Fort West Owners Association, Johns said that Farragut’s neighborhoods “are the strength of our community. … There’s a lot of issues facing neighborhoods. The incumbent does not live in a neighborhood. … The town needs to engage the neighborhoods to have a lot more citizen participation and input. …

All the neighborhoods face the same issues … but there’s not a formal mechanism to bring that knowledge together.”

That’s one reason Johns is launching FCA, the Farragut Community Alliance, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is spelled out: “to bring Farragut citizens, neighborhoods and organizations together in a collaborative effort to provide the vision and roadmap for the community … and prepare the town for future challenges and opportunities.”

FCA will focus on Farragut’s future from the “grass roots level” to the town’s leadership.

• Develop tomorrow’s community leaders.

“The best compliment a leader can have is developing future leaders, and that mechanism has not been in place here,” Johns said.

He proposes the development of Leadership Farragut, whose mission will be to: “build a leadership base of dedicated individuals who are committed to fostering and enhancing the growth of Farragut.” One objective would be to provide a forum for people with a “sincere interest in Farragut” to gather, identify community needs and possible solutions. Johns worked with UT MBA students to develop the curriculum. The group compared such programs statewide, including Leadership German-town, where Johns was in its 1996 inaugural class.

As Knox County government and the City of Knoxville are succeeding with new mayors still in their first terms, Johns said, Farragut needs new leadership as well. “I think there needs to be a third new mayor. … I think Farragut cannot afford four more years going in this direction,” he added. But should he get elected, Johns said he would sign a contract limiting his length in office.

“I would limit myself to two terms so we could have new leadership come in,” he said.

• Improve safety through planning, collaboration and execution

Among John’s safety concerns is road design.

“I’m starting to see that some of our road plans are starting to look like some of the things I used to live by in Atlanta, Georgia with sprawl,” he said.

Johns stresses the importance of traffic calming features such as curves and trees and ample traffic lights. An adequate safety plan is something else he said Farragut lacks. “I’m not a doomsdayer, but we have a lot of things going on around us that you never know what could happen. … I would put in a safety plan to be able to deal with those things that are ‘what if’ situations.”

Johns’ list of Farragut’s “critical needs” also includes: provide parks, greenways and a clean and safe environment, develop a task force to look at environmental concerns, provide senior services and outreach support, develop cultural and entertainment community events, handle school overcrowding, provide competitive education and support and maintain and positively impact homeowner’s investments.

Johns said relationships he’s formed while serving in local and regional groups will help him succeed as mayor. Some of those groups include: the East Tennessee Economic Council and East Tennessee Technology Council, Knoxville Oak Ridge Regional Network, where he is a board member, and Tennessee Valley Corridor’s 2004 Summit steering committee. He founded the Tennessee Nanotech Alliance, was on the steering committee of East Tennessee Nano Initiative and is a member of the Farragut/Concord Republican Club.

Johns also enjoys organic gardening, traveling, scuba diving, paleontology, astronomy and aeronautics. He and his wife and golden retrievers, Marty and Major, live in Fort West subdivision.


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