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First Lady Ford to help ‘fix’ county charter


Linda Ford, wife of Farragut Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III, was surprised, yet pleased, to receive a call Tuesday, June 13, from the Knox County Mayor’s office.

Ford said the county mayor’s phone call, received while she was in a meeting, asked whether she would willingly serve on a 19-member charter revision committee that will consider charter insufficiencies and then rewrite portions of the document, which the court foundd lacking.

Knox County Chancellor John Weaver, in reviewing the county’s 1988 governmental charter, noted several points of charter insufficiency Friday, June 9, while considering validity of the charter’s “term limits” provision limiting the number of years county elected officials may serve in public office.

Weaver called the county’s charter, as written, “incomplete, invalid and ineffective.”

The charter, Weaver said, fails to enumerate all the county’s responsibilities — ranging from road work to law enforcement — as state law requires.

The judicial decision since has left the county mayor’s office backing and filling to try and quickly plug those charter holes, which the court

identified.

Ford said she was among three selected to represent District 5, partly because she was a private citizen and registered voter who had no role in work of the original charter commission that crafted the 1988 document.

The county charter requires that at least 10 charter committee members be ordinary citizens, not political office holders. Also representing the Fifth District are Ken Dunlap and Knox County Commissioner Mike Hammond.

“We haven’t been asked to rewrite the whole charter,” Ford said. “Just to fix those problems that the court said are broken” in the Knox County document.

Ford said she was as surprised as anyone to learn recently that the charter, on which all county operations are based, had not been properly delivered and filed with state officials in Nashville, once charter commission members had completed their work.

“My first question,” Ford said, “was exactly what our mission would be. As I understand it, it will be our mission to address only those issues which the judge felt were problems” in the charter.

Ford said she had not yet been informed when or where committee members will meet. Nor had she received by last weekend any materials on which to base committee deliberations.

Ford said, however, she did recall how diligently the original charter commission members had worked to craft the 1988 document, which underwent two reviews before it took effect in 1990.

“They worked tirelessly for months and months,” Ford said. “I was in awe of that group that worked so long to be sure the job was done well.”

Though her husband was not yet Farragut’s mayor when the town’s charter was written in 1980, Ford said she recalled that municipal document had been “hand-carried” to the capital to ensure it was properly delivered and filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

“I’m also a Knox County citizen,” Ford said, “so I’m pleased to help, and I feel responsible to help do this.”

Ford said she has met Hammond and others named to the charter committee, but has not yet worked formally with any of them.

“But I feel very comfortable to be asked to serve with these distinguished people,” Ford added. “We just all need to follow our consciences to get these problems fixed as quickly as possible.”

Ford doubted many people ever read the county charter although, she added, the document provides the basis for all the many activities county government performs.

“We have an interesting task in front of us,” Ford said. “Judge Weaver has looked this over and found these flaws. I certainly respect him for doing that.

“It’s obvious that many Knox County citizens are riled and demand some solution. So I look forward now to working with others toward finding a remedy,” Ford added. “And I hope we can find a speedy solution.”

Any revisions committee members make to the charter most be submitted to voters, probably at the November general election. Were a wholesale charter rewrite required, state law would not allow a new document to take effect until September 2010.

 

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