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Honken vies for Rutenber Ward 1 seat

Every two years, Farragut residents elect two Aldermen, one from each of the town’s two wards. And more often than not, residents have had the option of electing an incumbent.

With the upcoming retirement of Ward I Alderman Constance Rutenber, however, voters will be choosing between two newcomers – Ron Honken and Thomas Rosseel. While either would be a new addition to the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen, both have served the town in other capacities.

Honken has volunteered on Farragut’s Personnel Com-mittee since 1999; last year he was elected among its six members to serve as chairman. Read about Thomas Rosseel in next week’s farragutpress.

Being involved in local government is something Honken said he’s done almost his entire adult life, beginning in his home state of Minnesota and then in subsequent municipalities in Nebraska and Indiana.

Honken and his wife, Cathy, and sons Reed, 11, and Riley, 6, have lived in Farragut since 1998 when his company, Great West Casualty Company – a business that insures trucking companies — expanded into Knoxville. Honken is one of 10 executives who manage Great West and its 800 employees; he oversees its Knoxville office.

Just as in Farragut, Honken started volunteering in his former hometown governments by writing a letter stating: “I would like to be involved.”

I’ve always believed in giving back the talent that I’ve been blessed with in life. … Trying to get people to come together for a common good is something I’ve always been good at.”

Honken has sat on economic development committees, housing authorities and downtown business committees. With those experiences, he said he’s “seen both sides of the economic development coin. … Whether in business or whether in the government level, they’re very similar. … the leadership, the planning, the budgeting all those issues are very much the same.”

Honken said he’d often considered running for office and asked to meet with Rutenber when learning of her retirement. “Sometimes, people step into things that they really haven’t researched,” he said. He asked the 10-year veteran: “what’s the good, what’s the bad, what’s the ugly?”

Honken had already determined his opinion of what was good in Farragut. He has studied its budget and its capital improvement plan.

“Most businesses would kill to be sitting as well as the town of Farragut is, it’s gonna take additional work in that regard to ensure that’s the case in five years. …” Especially, Honken added, with much of the town’s funding reliant on intergovernmental revenue – a source that could easily decrease.

“People just need to make sure they’re monitoring the dollars coming in versus the dollars going out and those are skills that I bring to the table because I do it everyday.”

Honken also is concerned with town revenues on the decline over the last five years. “The town is going to have to put some additional emphasis on increasing their revenue over the long run,” he said.

“Farragut has had a reputation over the years whether real or imagined that it’s a difficult place to do business.”

Looking at the town’s demographics, Honken questions, “what business would not want to be in the town of Farragut? … What’s keeping them from building on this side of the line versus on the other side of the line?”

He has spoken to developers who told him: “it’s not that we expect Farragut to be an easier place to develop, we know that it’s gonna be tougher than Knoxville … however it needs to be possible.” While housing developments are doing very well, Honken said, “if there are barriers to commercial development that can be changed, I think the town of Farragut has an obligation to do that.”

On the other hand, Honken added, “I think the community needs to realize, it is not the town’s responsibility to ensure that a business is successful. … They do have an obligation to make sure Farragut is a place that business wants to come to.

“At the end of the day, I think everybody needs to put it in perspective. If the biggest gripe in the paper is what color a building is, it really isn’t that bad of a town to be in.”

Honken said he has passion for the job – the same kind of passion that he has seen in the town’s current administration, something he believes is necessary for the role.

“If I didn’t believe in the town of Farragut, number one I wouldn’t live there. … Number two I would not have offered to be a volunteer,” he said.

Honken made it clear that he’s not running because he has a specific gripe against the town or a laundry list of things he wants to see changed.

“In the areas that are causing frustration whether it’s for an individual citizen or whether it’s for a developer, I want to be a catalyst for bringing these people together and finding solutions that will work for everybody, … to make a decision that is best for the community as a whole.”

About that, Honken said, “I think citizen involvement is critical because at the end of the day, it’s their community.”

He applies the same philosophy in his role as an executive, encouraging and expecting colleagues to openly discuss company issues; if even, Honken said, to question one of his decisions. If they don’t, he said, “shame on them.”

“If there are issues [citizens] see the town needs to deal with, [they] need to bring them up because five people will not have an understanding of all the needs of what will soon be almost twenty thousand people.”


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