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Ragsdale run ‘probably official’ in December


While Knox County Mayor Michael Ragsdale is not quite prepared to officially announce his bid for re-election, he said he’s “intent” on running again.

The guest of honor at a fund-raiser at a Farragut home last month, Ragsdale’s soiree was attended by more than 300 well wishers who celebrated his nearly three years in office.

“I sure wouldn’t have held the fund-raiser if I wasn’t going to run for re-election, so we’ll have an official announcement probably in December,” he said.

About his progress as mayor, Ragsdale said: “We started out with some very specific goals of what we wanted to achieve. I’m real proud of the progress we’ve made but the journey isn’t complete yet and we have some other things that I want us to move forward on.”

Issues Ragsdale said are important have included education, senior services and job creation.

“You know when I came into office the school board and county commission were suing one another,” he said.

“The only people that benefited from that were the attorneys who were engaged in the case. … Conflict in politics makes for great media … but I can tell you it makes for terrible government. So what we wanna do is put those issues behind us and move forward in a productive and progressive kind of way.”

SCHOOL ISSUES

Moving forward includes suitable Knox County schools. Ragsdale views the new West Knox County high school as a priority but is keeping his eye on projects across the county.

“While we have real overcrowding in Farragut,” he said, “[Gibbs Elementary] has no walls, it’s a virtually impossible situation to teach in.”

Powell Middle School and Cedar Bluff Primary are also high on his priority list.

Another of his priorities depends on state leaders. “We receive eight hundred dollars per child less in Knox County than the state average for education. We receive less than Williamson County which is the richest county in Tennessee per capita,” he said. “That is our top and foremost legislative priority next year is to fix the basic education funding plan because it is a mess and it is not fair to the citizens of Tennessee.”

TAXES

While levying a property tax would have been a lot simpler than a wheel tax to fund the new school, Ragsdale said, “I didn’t think that was the right way to go. We haven’t had a property tax increase since [1999.] And we won’t have one next year. That means we’ve gone longer than virtually any county in Tennessee without a property tax increase.”

As for property appraisals which will be completed in the coming weeks, he said: “If your property has increased by a value of more than like twelve or maybe thirteen percent, you may be paying a little more in property taxes. If your property has gone in the other direction, you could potentially pay a little bit less in property taxes. It’s gonna be awash for most people.”

LIBRARY, JAIL UPDATES

“At some point in time, that will be an issue we have to address,” Ragsdale said about the need for a new downtown library, the county’s most visited branch. “When you look up on certain days and people don’t have a place to sit or can’t get into the library, then we need a better facility, but we’re gonna save that one for another day and let’s get our school challenges fixed first.”

Jail overcrowding is another challenge. Ragsdale announced recently that the county would commit to expanding the Knox County Sheriff’s Detention Center. Saving money dictated the timing of the decision.

“We’re under a federal court order,” Ragsdale said. “The idea of being fined five-thousand dollars per prisoner per day, that gets to be very expensive very quickly.

“Do I wish we were spending that money on something else? You bet I do. … The last thing anyone wants are people who are breaking the law out running the streets, some people unfortunately need to be incarcerated. … Those who we can help and make productive members of society … we need to look at them in a little bit different way.”

Ragsdale, whose career has included management positions at Pellissippi State Technical Community College and Barber & McMurry architect firm, said he’s been honored to take on the role of public servant, dubbing it challenging, interesting and “a real joy” despite a busy schedule.

“I think you have to budget time a whole lot more wisely than you used to,” he said.

RAGSDALE’S RESIDENCE

“There’s no bad part of Knox County, but I’m very proud to live in Farragut,” he said. Ragsdale has lived in Farragut since 1986, moving into West Knox County with his wife, Claudia, and son, David, because they found a house they liked in “a real good solid community.”

That view was reinforced during the September 2002 train derailment.

“I’d been in office less than two weeks,” he said. “We had to evacuate several thousand people out of their homes on a Sunday afternoon. It was really touching to see how folks put up other people in their homes. … It was an incredible outpouring of caring and a classic example of what kind of people we have living in this community.”













Ragsdale applauds the town’s leadership.



“You’ve got some really committed public servants in the town of Farragut. … They provide good leadership. The town’s got a good staff. You’ve got a group of citizens there who are really committed to doing the right things.









He is optimistic about Knox County’s future.

“I want to follow through on what we’ve got going here,” he said. We have more opportunities than any community that I know of.”

 

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