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Ford, Johns: After the tally

Alderman Joel Garber, Ward I, wasn’t on the ballot of last week’s Farragut municipal election. While he ran his race two years ago, he was very involved in this one. Garber was on Mayor W. Edward Ford’s support team and served as a “runner” election night, delivering results as soon as they were announced from the Knox County Election Commission.

Garber commented on the contested races and wanted to thank every candidate.

“It’s very important to have this kind of participation. It makes people think, makes people come alive,” he added. About the new board, Garber said, “I know we will work together to do what’s best for the town.”

Farragut First Lady Linda Ford was emotional as she thanked the more than 50 supporters who gathered in the Ford’s home awaiting election results. She described the race as a “roller coaster ride” and was relieved when it was over.

Attendees included current members of the FBMA, such as fellow candidate Alderman Michael Haynes and his family, former leaders including former Farragut Mayor Robert Leonard and former Vice Mayor Robert Watt.

“I was concerned but I knew he could do it,” Watt said of Ford’s re-election. “No question, he was the man for the job. He’s got his hands on everything going on.”

Also present were Mary Lou Koepp, former town recorder, and Katie Lawson, a Farragut High School student who voted early for Ford and endorsed him in a letter to the editor appearing in farragutpress.

After hearing of the results, Leonard walked through the Ford house shouting, “victory.”

“We believe this was a victory for good government in Farragut. Government that’s well thought out, operating according to a plan. Standards matter and Eddy Ford was upholding the standards and will continue to do so.”

Leonard was quick to point out that the election came too quickly to be able to expound upon a key campaign issue — business development. “We’ll see several new commercial developments soon,” he said.

Other issues raised included road conditions and school overcrowding — a topic in which mayoral candidates were clearly divided. Ford ran on his “record” and his pride in Farragut, while opponent Bill Johns countered with a platform that outlined Farragut’s “critical needs.”

Mayor Ford

“It is an honor to be the mayor of the town of Farragut,” Ford said adding, “to be elected to that position by such a wide majority, I am deeply honored.”

Ford said he was appreciative of the many people who worked on behalf of his campaign, naming first his wife, Linda.

“I’ve got the greatest wife in the world, by my side the full time,” he said.

“Throughout this campaign, my focus was on the town of Farragut, where it was, where it came from and where it was going. Over and over, I emphasized our commitment to improving roads … how we were moving forward with improving our town parks and improving our walkways.

“My focus is consistent as it has been over the years with improving our infrastructure, involving the many citizens in the town of Farragut in our development review process as we continue to grow.”

About the issue of the business development, Ford was quick to point out that concerned candidates did not mention growth that’s occurred in the town within the last two years or developments that will soon add to the business community.

“Can you imagine how many small towns in these United States would welcome what we have experienced in the last few years in the town of Farragut?” Ford said.

“We have the one-hundred-fifty-thousand-square-foot addition coming in at Dixie Lee Junction. … We have a major development coming in at Concord Produce, a similar combination office and business retail sector. … Turkey Creek Land Partners, Farragut Land Partners have announced their initiative to bring in commercial in the sector on Parkside Drive that’s in the town of Farragut.”

Another issue that divided the candidates was that of school overcrowding.

“Knox County schools are operated by the Knox County Board of Education. The Board of Education defines school districts,” Ford said regarding his stance. “Knox County schools are funded by Knox County. Our citizens paid a total of twelve million dollars in property taxes in 2003 to Knox County. … Knox County Mayor (Michael) Ragsdale has stepped forward and proposed a funding mechanism and the citizens of Knox County voted for that funding mechanism. Progress is being made,” he said. “The district could be re-zoned tomorrow and the population in the Farragut schools would be different tomorrow than they are today.”

Ford added the FBMA passed a resolution last year asking the Knox County Board of Education not to rezone students living in a Farragut neighborhood.

“And then we realized in doing that, of course, that schools are not our responsibility and we could only humbly ask.”

Ford added, “We have provided the infrastructure for those schools. The roads leading to all four [Farragut schools] are in excellent condition,” and Campbell Station Road extension will bring more students to the schools.

As for the new board, Ford has been a longtime supporter of Alderman Haynes and said he looks forward to working with Thomas Rosseel. “What higher honor can I give someone than appoint them to serve on the Planning Commission,” Ford asked alluding to the three terms Rosseel sat on the FMPC following Ford’s appointment.

William Johns

Completing his first-ever run for political office, mayoral candidate Johns said he looks back with “no regrets” upon his 2005 campaign.

“Our campaign was excellent, totally focused on the issues,” he said. “And our issues actually became, basically, the issues of the whole election … There was a lot of great ideas from everybody in this campaign … .”

Johns said the town “should re-evaluate” the timing of its election, holding it instead in the fall. “Well, I think in the fall you have your biggest voter turnout with the general election,” he said. “And I think having a couple of other positions in addition to your federal representation would be a good thing because more people get excited … .”

John said he would do away with aldermen Wards I and II and “throw it into one pot.

“Every alderman has the opportunity to vote on everything effecting North or South,” Johns said. “And if there (is) an alderman elected on the North side and they’re voting on stuff effecting the South side, I think the people in the South side should be able to vote for them as well … the aldermen would have to campaign on both sides of Farragut.”

Listing the one thing he thinks Ford needs to do immediately, “… I would hope that Mayor Ford and his administration is able to reach out to businesses and go and listen to the businesses. … go listen to the churches and other not-for-profit organizations in our community. And really come into the homeowners associations and understanding how all this is impacting everybody… .”

In addition to each Farragut voter who supported him, Johns thanked Jerrod Hollyfield, campaign manager; entrepreneurs Walt Chan of Pak Mail; Angela Lin of Tijuana Taco; Leslie Julian of Copies and More; and “special mentorship” recognition to Brixworth Homeowners Associa-tion and Mike Mitchell with Concerned Citizens for Respon-sible Growth and Development.

“Most importantly, I want to thank all those unnamed folks because this campaign wasn’t my campaign, it became the community’s campaign,” Johns said. “ … people who are truly making a grassroots effort during this campaign, producing their own flyers, knocking on doors … .”

Johns neither committed to having a political future nor distanced himself from any future runs from office.

“I give my best to Mayor Ford, he’s a great mayor and I hope he has a great four years and I hope he continues on some of the things that he had planned, part of his issues he wanted to see done over the next four years,” Johns said.

Writer Alan Sloan contributed to this story.


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